Blog Question 10/19

Throughout the entire novel, Richard seems to make rather ignorant comments: he blames all of Rufus’s problems solely on Rufus, calls Vivaldo a child for starting a relationship with Ida, and lumps all African Americans together in blaming them for the attack on his children. Even at the end of the novel, when Richard suspects that Cass is cheating on him, he immediately suspects Vivaldo, and does not even consider Eric as an option. Although other characters have tried to correct his ignorance, his views remain unchanged. Why do you think Richard chooses willingly to be ignorant to the world around him?  What role does writing his novel play in allowing this ignorance?

In addition, what would you consider Richard’s idea of “another country” to be?

-Siobhan McKenna

7 Responses to Blog Question 10/19

  1. Abigail Gardener says:

    Richard uses his novel as a mechanism that allows him to isolate himself from the world, and especially from Cass and her affair. He is able to hide behind his work, and eventually behind the opportunities the novel allows him as well. However, he also knows that Cass does not think his novel is good, and does not see him as a true “artist” because he is no longer struggling. He has succeeded in publishing his work, and although this means Cass and the children can live comfortably, Richard knows Cass harbors a sort of resentment towards him for that. But he chooses to be ignorant of this because it makes him uncomfortable, and he doesn’t want to deal with it. This is how Richard deals with most of his problems, and likely why he willingly chooses to be ignorant; he does not like discomfort or abnormality, and instead of confronting his problems, he separates himself from them and comes up with solutions he can deal with that prove everything is fine. He doesn’t like the idea of Cass sleeping with Eric, so he immediately assumes Vivaldo because that would at least be feasible to him. He doesn’t want to expand his worldview or believe that the toxic world Rufus grew up in could have been a factor in his death, so he blames all of Rufus’s issues on Rufus. This is Richard’s (somewhat childlike) way of dealing with the problems life throws at him.

  2. Noah says:

    I don’t know if Richard is so much choosing to be ignorant as that he is really, well, ignorant. He’s embedded in such a position of privilege that I don’t think it’s really possible for him to see the world in a different way. His lack of self-awareness is what makes him one of the least interesting characters in the novel, and removes any chance for us to actually be able to understand things from his point of view. I think Baldwin did this on purpose, to help illustrate just how deeply rooted in ignorance the white bourgeois class Richard belongs to really is.

    • Sydney Exler says:

      I agree with Noah! We are both in the group from class that analyzed Richard and his role in the novel. I think it isn’t so much, as Noah stated, that Richard is represented as ignorant, as much as it is that Richard is genuinely ignorant. I think Baldwin places him in an important role as representing a mainstream, wealthy (or at least comfortable), white male within society. Often times we see him as mostly ignorant to the racial inequality around him. This argument is further complicated by his relationship with Cass, as she initially seems inarguably tied to Richard, and therefore gains the similar status as a standard wealthy white woman; however, she breaks from this representation, while Richard seemingly never does. Overall, it seems that Baldwin represents ‘accidental ignorance’, (or, stupid, ignorant ignorance) – an ignorance that the individual themselves doesn’t even seem to actively notice, but is wholly evident to a reader – in the form of Richard; this ultimately serves as an important character, among all of the different characters’ roles and perspectives on race and gender.

  3. Aly Thomas says:

    In W.E.B Du Bois’s 1903 book “Souls of Black Folk,” he writes:
    “After the Egyptian and the Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,— a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” I understand Du Bois’s conceptualization of the veil as being a sociological concept, the veil is a barrier that exists on the color-line, that separates Black folks and white folks from living each other’s realities. Due to the subordination of Blackness, Black folks are able to understand what whiteness is (as a means of survival) while whiteness does not comprehend Blackness. Richard is white, and there is a veil that exists between him and Rufus. He does not exercise his sociological imagination, and he remains ignorant to racial dynamics.
    My guess for what Richard’s “Another Country” would look/feel like, is much like Winter, white and cold. Richard sees people of color as a “problem,” which burdens “good white people” like he and his family. His “Another Country” is a “white folk only” neighborhood where he imagines his family would be free from harm, and free from having to contend with issues of race that plague New York City. That is not to say that race is not being re-created and re-ified even in white-only spaces, but that Richard perceives of himself as the default American, and folks of color as “the other” which cause him discomfort.

    • Gilberto Rosa says:

      Yes! Come all the way through with the sociological input!!!!!!! Yeah, Richard is obviously very ignorant and actively goes out of his way to “other” black people. Lately I’ve been thinking about the ways in which all the white folks in this novel represent different types of racists and through their relationships with other black people, we can see how regardless of the ways they approach their ignorance it still has very real consequences of the lives of the black characters. With that being said, I feel as though Richard’s ignorance is the most real to me. He is actively aware of the fact that he “others” black people and literally wants to be away from them. To me, this is the most logical place to start unlearning his racist attitudes. Especially in this era (and presidential election), we are consistently talking about numbers, statistics and even showing black folks getting murdered on social media and this still has no impact on people. Plenty of white people still act like they care but proceed to do other racist acts. However, Baldwin paints Richard as someone who is fully aware of the fact that they are racist and wants to be physically separated from black folks and still asks us to engage with what that means for black people and everyone else in society.

  4. Ryan Spencer says:

    I think that Richard is in fact ignorant by choice. How conscious this choice is seems to change, but none-the-less it seems certainly to be a choice.

    I think his conception of “Another Country” demonstrates this. After his kids are beat up and he ignorantly lumps all African American’s into his blame, he suggests “I am willing to cry Uncle and surrender the island back to the goddam Indians” (243). He outright wants to avoid conflict and thus doesn’t even consciously reflect on himself or the world around him. Whether he is conscious of his own ignorance is not entirely clear in my opinion. It seems at times that he is and he isn’t.

    I also think this concept of him wanting to avoid conflict and find the easiest way out plays into his novel and what his novel says about him. Though his novel is selling well he admits multiple times that Vivaldo is the better writer and at one point concedes that other people in literary committees likely agree that Vivaldo is a better writer. I think his novel is meant to portray his lack of self-awareness. I think his novel is supposed to be thought of as a mediocre novel without the insight which more literary pieces might provide and a novel which avoids tough problems in favor of simple half-solutions.

  5. Michaela Cabral says:

    I feel like the most positive perception of Richard is the one we learn about before even meeting him. When Vivaldo, Rufus and Leona met Cass in the park and she mentioned Richard, I assumed that he would be a positive character in the same way Cass seemed to be.
    After meeting Richard’s character, it became clear that this was not the case. His extreme dislike of Rufus can arguably be explained Rufus’s actions. I think the first moment when Richard’s racist ideals became impossible to ignore was when Ida said that the police didn’t care about finding Rufus because he was black, and Richard responded, in a disapproving way, with, “is that fair? I mean hell, I’m sure they’ll look for him just like they look for any other citizen of this city…I don’t think you should look at it like that” (101). This shows Richard’s ignorance of racism. He also discredits Ida’s view about racism, which she is obviously much more knowledgeable about. He may consider himself to be an intellectual, but he is deeply disillusioned about the realities of racism in America. In this statement, Richard’s racist ideals that are unrelated to Rufus first become evident, setting a precedent for the rest of the story.
    I think Richard is included in the story to represent antagonistic ideals, insidious ones like the ones that killed Rufus. He represents every day microaggressions (that sometimes cross the line into blatant racism). I think he personally chooses to be ignorant because it a comfortable narrative that works for him. He doesn’t lose anything by maintaining his ignorance.
    I think that Richard’s view of “another country” would be one that centers himself. This is already the world he projects onto his current country and life. It is shown in the way that he treats Cass, as well. It also connects to his novel writing, with this being a way for him to place himself and his achievements front and center, while also using the novel to avoid any true delving into difficult topics, in terms of writing or himself.

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