Discussion for 10/13

Throughout the text, Vivaldo has many different kinds of relationships with the other characters. How does Baldwin use these relationships to describe and comment on interracial relationships in America?

8 Responses to Discussion for 10/13

  1. Aly Thomas says:

    Baldwin’s representations of relationships in the text reveals the weight of interracial romance on both white and Black people. While interracial romance is often lauded as being a marker of racial progress, Baldwin uses interracial relationships as a site in which we see inter-personal struggles across the color-line. While we have to be careful to not distract from the systematic nature of racism, it is important to look at the interpersonal, too. Love is political. Vivaldo and Ida’s arguments about race are interesting, the way I conceptualize it is Ida is Vivaldo’s “Another Country.” Her blackness and womanness is illegible, and while well-intentioned, he continually messes up because it is so illegible to him. The first time I read Another Country, I didn’t understand why Vivaldo was conceptualized as being racially insensitive to Ida, now I see it much more. I’m wondering how other people in the class feel?

  2. Noah says:

    I think especially in the relationship between Vivaldo and Ida, Baldwin demonstrates the complicated relationship between traditional white America and people of color. There is an unspeakable agony that separates Ida and Vivaldo, even when they are together, preventing them from fully being able to accept one another. During the moments in which they love each other, it’s profound, but when they hate each other, they’re extremely spiteful and vitriolic. I think Baldwin’s trying to say that it’s impossible to ignore or negate the centuries of (and current) oppression and exploitation in the relationship between white America and African Americans, and I haven’t yet been able to find what he thinks might possibly be a way to fix things.

  3. Abigail Gardener says:

    I would agree with Aly that while Vivaldo is well-intentioned, Ida’s blackness is so illegible to him that he continually makes mistakes in their relationship. However, I do also think that Ida (understandably) partially resents Vivaldo, because of his whiteness and how that prevents him from ever understanding what it means and how it feels to be black. Therefore, she lashes out at him. Vivaldo claims he loved and understood Rufus, but Ida knows he will never know what it actually felt like to be Rufus. Reading Baldwin’s description of the struggles Ida and Vivaldo go through while trying to sustain this relationship pained me. Both are trying to make it work, but the way I see it, both have such deeply-rooted (generally negative) ideas about the other’s race that it seems almost inevitable they would harbor some type of resentment towards each other.

    • Conor Amrien says:

      I agree that that both members of the relationship partially resent one another for their respective whiteness or blackness whether this is intentional or not. I think for Vivaldo, at least partially, Ida is an extension of his relationship with Rufus. Vivaldo really encapsulates many of the different types of relationships within the novel. He was briefly with Jane, had some experience with Rufus, Ida, and finally Eric. Each of these relationships represent a microcosm of the difficulties of interracial and bisexual relationships. In the case of Vivaldo and Ida specifically, Vivaldo thinks of Ida in terms of her sexuality, her identity as a black woman, and her relation to Rufus. I think part of her protectiveness over her is a result of his repressed bisexuality and a need to assert masculinity, however, I think that Vivaldo views Ida as a sexual being first. Most of the time, woman aren’t able to be sexual beings in the same way as the man is in society. Women are to be desired, while men are supposedly the protectors/operators of this desire. Black women experience this objectification, yet to a larger, more violent degree because of the prejudice they face at the hands of white oppressors. A black woman seen walking with a white man, in the case of Vivaldo and Ida, is being looked down upon. The people of the city, like Richard, wonder why Vivaldo is “scraping from the bottom of the white barrel”. Regardless of Vivaldo’s desire, people see their relationship in this way as a result of a culture of white supremacy. Vivaldo is seen as being “too good”, while Ida is being seen as “not good enough”. This outside view only complicates their relationship further.

  4. Siobhan McKenna says:

    I agree with Aly that Ida definitely seems to be Vivaldo’s “Another Country”. As we discussed in class on Monday, at the time this book was written, it seems to be that the bodies of African American women were viewed only as objects of lust, or as a menace. In this way, it could be that Vivaldo is only attracted to her through lust. He wishes to explore her, this body that is unknown to him; he is intrigued by her blackness. Through this relationship between Ida and Vivaldo, therefore, Baldwin seems to complicate the idea of interracial relationships, saying that they are built mainly on lust, and no real love is involved. It is difficult for these relationships to be formed out of love because both races are equally as foreign to the other, as for so long these two races weren’t allowed to associate with each other, and now, even today, interracial relationships are only just slowly beginning to gain acceptance. Due to this strict separation, the foreignness and lust seems to be what attracts these relationships, and not so much love for, and understanding of, each other, because that understanding was made basically impossible to grasp.

  5. Ryan Spencer says:

    Thinking specifically to the early interactions between Vivaldo and Ida, before there was any real sexual relationship between them, Cass says that she hopes that love is why Vivaldo is “trying to prove” (125) something in his feelings for Ida and Vivaldo asserts that he thinks that Ida “has something to forget” (125). As the two go to meet Cass and Richard for the first time seeing each other since Rufus’s funeral, Cass seems carefree even as people give her and Vivaldo unsettled looks. While the white people’s “eyes briefly accused Vivaldo of betrayal,” (144) Ida, “conveyed with this stride and her bright, noncommittal face how far she felt them to be beneath her.” At least in this moment Ida seems to break, or at least ignore, the racial boundaries in place in the novel. Because Vivaldo is at her side, she seems to be independent of prejudices that once confined her. Her liberation from the prejudices of the society, though, seem to come at Vivaldo’s expense as he receives looks which accuse him of betrayal. Thus Baldwin through the imbalance of Ida and Vivaldo’s relationship define interracial racial romance as unbalanced in America. In this particular case, Vivaldo’s whiteness seems to uplift Ida so she can forget the racial prejudices towards her, while Ida’s blackness seems to cause society to shame Vivaldo. This imbalance seems to switch throughout their relationship, but it is suggested that they never are they quite equals, at least in the eyes of society and the tensions which society places on them as individuals.

  6. LaShawn Simmons says:

    In Another Country, one could argue that in most cases Baldwin initiates these interracial relationships primarily as a form of sexual attraction and eventual possession. Recall Vivaldo’s relationship with Ida in which he seems primarily attracted to her striking beauty (and perhaps memory of Rufus). Their intimate moments spent together involved some form of physical contact and peculiar possession. Before the two characters had engaged in conversation about a possible romantic relationship, Ida confronts Vivaldo about his possessive nature during the first time she meets Ellis at the dinner party for Richard’s new book. This trope continues throughout the novel though Ida in many cases deflect his tendencies. Though, these deflections are covered are normally rejected in violence. Vilvaldo appears to “joke” about it in his statement “ I have to beat her up from time to time.. but otherwise she’s great’ (258). I found this statement uncomfortable and the fact that it is a laughable matter disregards the very misogynoir(ist?) behavior appears normal enough to laugh about. In regards to Eric, I believe his intentions are not too distant from Vivaldo. In my opinion, Eric’s interracial relationships are predatory as his lovers tend to be the most vulnerable and most dependent on him. I believe he plays into this trope in his relationship with Rufus as he offers gifts to Rufus such as the cufflinks. This only highlights his preying tendencies in a relationship . As the reader, I don’t feel alone in this analysis as Ida alludes to a similar conclusion in her statement: “Vivaldo, you haven’t got to talk about what’s happening to know what’s happening. Rufus never talked to me about what was happening to him-but I knew just the same (324)” This statement was in response to Vivaldo’s comment about the true nature of Rufus and Eric’s relationship when he tells Ida “you don’t know as much about men as you think you know (323).”
    In the relationship, both Vivaldo and Eric struggle with the true consequences of their actions by disregarding the legacy of racism and slavery that parades in both Ida’s and Rufus psyche. Perhaps, Baldwin uses the characters Ida and Rufus to offer perspective on how detrimental this can be in an interracial relationship. Both Vivaldo and Eric including Leona seem to disregard this emotional memory by making statements that echo ideas such as “I don’t see color” or “it’s not my fault that you are black”. I have not been in an interracial relationship before but I imagine this type of conflict persists in contemporary American society in some interracial relationships .

  7. Sydney Exler says:

    Vivaldo, inarguably and importantly, represents various types of interracial relationships – most importantly as a friend (with Rufus) and as a lover (with Ida). The continuity of various aspects between these two relationships ultimately, in my opinion, highlights Vivaldo’s inability to recognize and process racial divides (as various people have suggested above). What is specifically important, however, is the emergence of Vivaldo’s arguable ignorance in various contexts of relationships. For example, when him and Rufus get beat at the bar with Jane, Rufus is the one who tells Vivaldo to go to the hospital, and to purposefully leave Rufus at home. Although Vivaldo was arguably incapacitated at this moment, the point still remains deliberately highlighted by Baldwin. With Ida, you need only look at the previous comments for countless examples of Vivaldo’s incidental colorblindness. Vivaldo is therefore an extremely important character because of his role as a white male who willingly befriends colored people without acknowledgement of any potential problems with such; this is important because he portrays an underrepresented group of white American individuals at this time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.