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Another Country is possibly the only novel of its time in which every character suffers from a feeling of isolation. All the main characters share in the feeling of isolation. Whether the character's isolation is a result of race, economic situation, or even sexual orientation, each character's life is affected. The feeling of isolation causes the characters to lose touch with reality.
This isolation is evident in the story of Rufus. Rufus is a young black jazz musician who grew up in Harlem, a young Black man fighting " the system" to attain his dreams. Later in the novel, Rufus reveals his inner turmoil. Rufus feels isolated from society. He knows, yet is unable to accept, the racial barrier between himself and his only close friend, Vivaldo. Vivaldo is a true friend, but despite their friendship, Rufus has a constant feeling of resentment toward Vivaldo. Rufus is tormented by thoughts such as "No one dared look at Vivaldo, out with any girl whatever, the way they looked at me now;...This is because Vivaldo was white" (Baldwin 31).
The racial isolation is compounded when Rufus breaks all family ties in order to sustain his interracial relationship. Knowing his family's open disapproval of interracial relationships, Rufus decides to leave his family and live with his girlfriend, Leona. Despite his deep love for Leona, her presence constantly reminds him of the barrier between them. She becomes, in his mind, a symbol of the society that oppressed him. She becomes a symbol of the things he could never obtain in life.
As his life becomes consumed, he plunges into the depths of despair, committing horrendous crimes against his loved ones. Rufus refuses the help of his friends. He turns to life on the streets and eventually jumps off a bridge. Before Rufus's death, Baldwin narrates:
His own loneliness, magnified so many million times, made the night air colder. He remembered to what excess, into what traps and nightmares, his loneliness had driven him; and he wondered where such a violent emptiness might drive an entire city. (60)
Vivaldo, a close friend of Rufus, deals with his own form of isolation. A product of dysfunctional Brooklyn family, Vivaldo felt he was never loved; thus, he forces himself into loveless relationships. In these relationships he establishes a barrier between himself and his girlfriends. Vivaldo seems to be searching for love in all the wrong places--street corners and bars.
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Eric is isolated from society because of his sexual orientation. Eric feels neglected by his father and seeks comfort in the arms of a man. In turn, he is ostracized from his Alabama community. After leaving home, Eric spends the majority of his life searching for acceptance. He travels back and forth between the United States and Paris in search of acceptance.
Critic Harvey Breit notes that "isolation is a key factor in Another Country . It is a driving force that leads the character to commit the desperate actions that carry the plot" (31).
It is obvious that every character in Another Country is greatly affected by some feeling of isolation. Whether it is a racial barrier, a barrier due to sexuality or a barrier that stems from a dysfunctional childhood, these barriers are hard to overcome. The characters are compelled by loneliness to desperate measures.