a novel by James Baldwin, published in 1962. Considered by many critics to be Baldwin's finest mature work of fiction, the novel examines, from a variety of perspectives, the lives, destinies, and sensibilities of a group of characters linked by their love for the singer, Rufus. The tragic Rufus dominates the first few chapters, allowing Baldwin to comment on the effect of heritage and history—in Rufus's case, African-American—on the individual psyche. Rufus's unhappy love affair with a white Southern woman mirrors the racial tensions in society at large. His suicide forms the turning point of the novel, since it forces the other characters, women and men, hetero- and homosexual, black and white, to confront their conflicts and desires in search of release from the adversity of their mental and social circumstances. Among these characters are Rufus's sister Ida, her (white) lover Vivaldo, the writer Richard and his wife Cass, and the actor Eric. Baldwin's comprehension of emotions and their social production, the evocative power of his prose, and, above all, his portrayal of Eric—who unintentionally dominates the novel and, in his honest and positive acceptance of his homosexuality, serves as a catalyst for the conflicts of its other characters—combine to make it one of his most important and accessible works, with a relevance beyond the span of its time.