How do "Frankenstein" and "Another Country" articulate the experience of the outsider?

Authors Avatar

Question 2: How do any two novels articulate the experience of the outsider?

James Baldwin’s Another Country and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein both portray to the reader the experiences of isolated individuals. Despite their dates of publication being nearly one hundred and fifty years apart, the two novels share numerous similarities in their depiction of the “outsider”, as the characters of Rufus and Victor both seem to isolate themselves due to feelings of guilt, as opposed to being uncontrollably excluded.

One could justifiably suggest that every character in Baldwin’s Another Country is an outsider in their own way. Eric, for example, lived in Paris for several years before returning to New York, and comes back to find the city in which he once lived ‘very strange indeed’ (Baldwin, 2001, p.227). New relationships have been forged, a man he once loved is dead, and it soon becomes clear to him that he has missed a lot of important occurrences in the lives of his friends, and that ‘We’re getting old … and it damn sure didn’t take long.’ (Baldwin, 2001, p.231) Another outsider in the novel is Vivaldo: a white man who wishes to be accepted by the black community. Towards the end of the novel, his girlfriend Ida says: ‘there’s no way in the world for you to know what Rufus went through ... not as long as you’re white’ (Baldwin, 2001, p.344). Despite this being directed at their mutual friend Cass, her delivery is really aimed at every white character in the novel, and indeed every one of Baldwin’s white readers. So, it could be said that Vivaldo’s race immediately isolates him.

However, it is the character of Rufus who comes across as especially alone:

‘Beneath them Rufus walked, one of the fallen – for the weight of this city was murderous – one of those who had been crushed …’ (Baldwin, 2001, p.14) He beats his girlfriend, Leona – who is eventually committed to a mental hospital – and Rufus is unable to cope with his own guilt, and the judgement of those he cares most about. When he recalls his time spent in the Navy, it is clear that Rufus feels he has been particularly victimised due to his race:

        ‘He remembered, suddenly, his days in boot camp in the South and felt again the shoe of a white officer against his mouth … Some of his coloured buddies were holding him … helping him to rise. The white officer, with a curse, had vanished, had gone forever beyond the reach of vengeance. His face full of clay and tears and blood; he spat red blood into the red dust.’ (Baldwin, 2001, p.22)

Join now!

As Leona is a white, southern girl, it becomes apparent that Rufus feels that dominating her in this way is a reclamation of power over the white people that have oppressed him throughout his life. In Rufus’ head, this oppression is peculiar to him: he is a black man in a white world, which underlines his status as an outsider.

The very first chapter of the book opens with Rufus wandering through the New York City as a homeless man: ‘he was broke. And he had nowhere to go.’ (Baldwin, 2001, p.13) These short sentences make it immediately clear ...

This is a preview of the whole essay