Contradiction in Another Country

Contradiction in Another Country

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Contradiction in Another Country


Another Country contradicts the age-old principle that the United States is a safeground for all people. James Baldwin compares living the life of a homosexual in Paris to living the life of a homosexual in the United States. The views of the French are much more liberal than the conservative views of the Americans. The life that Eric, the homosexual character in Baldwin's novel, leads in Paris is socially acceptable. Baldwin also depicts France as a haven for interracial relationships.


Eric believes that living an openly homosexual life in Paris is more satisfying, rewarding, comfortable and protected because his choice of life is widely accepted by the French society. In Paris, everyone feels comfortable. Everyone feels free to live his or her own life and not adhere to the rules that society establishes. Homosexuals have the liberty to walk down the street, sit in public parks and show affection towards their partner free of worry, without the fear of "alley cats". The people of Paris condone and support Eric's happiness, as seen in this passage: "I see that. You seem much happier. There's a kind of light around you. She said this very directly, with a rueful, conspiratorial smile: as though she knew the cause of his happiness, and rejoiced for him" (234).


In contrast, New Yorkers have a entirely different attitude toward homosexuality. New York is confined by America's conservative views. The New York society functions on the principle that different is bad. Anyone who strays from the norms of society is a threat. The people in New York vocalize their disdain for homosexuals and in some cases even threaten physical violence against those who are bold enough to come out of hiding. Eric describes the New York atmosphere to his partner using the metaphor "alleys and alley cats" to represent those who prey on the openly homosexual. He comments: "Getting you into America is going to be hassle enough, baby, let's not rock the boat. Besides, New York is full of alley cats. And alleys" (Baldwin 190).


In addition, France proves to be a haven for interracial relationships as well. As seen in Another Country, the French society does not frown upon relationship between the races.

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The characters of Another Country feel free to inter-relate with those of any race while in France. But the United State has an entirely opposite attitude about race relations. An act as innocent as a couple walking together in the park is frowned upon if the two people walking are not of the same race. When Rufus takes the liberty of walking with his white girlfriend in a New York park, he is aware of the expression and whisper of every observer. During the 1950s, this is not acceptable.


Critic Harvey Breit states that "Through his comparison of the French and American societies, Baldwin reveals his own bias towards France. Baldwin himself found acceptance in Paris and spent the majority of his adulthood there" (31). The atmospheres about which Baldwin writes are real. He describes these atmospheres from his own personal experiences.


Baldwin creates a dramatic contrast between France and the United States. In doing so, he portrays the American society as bitter conservatives in comparison to the open-minded French. Baldwin depicts France as a peaceful place from inter-racial relationships and homosexuals.

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