Negative reviews tended to characterize the novel as a personal polemic excusing or even glorifying homosexuality and pushing Baldwin’s supposedly idiosyncratic racial agenda.
The most positive reviews tended to argue that the central themes of the novel were universal rather than personal and local.
One goal of the novel would seem to be to open readers up more fully to the possibilities for loving, and thereby, to humanize them.
To present homosexuality and interracial (and extramarital) love affairs without explicit or even implicit moral condemnation seemed so sensational at the time that it was difficult for even the most perceptive readers to appreciate the seriousness of Baldwin’s purposes.
Granville Hicks characterized the novel as “explosive,” but not artless or out of control.
has come to seem less explosive and more perceptive, and Baldwin’s own opinion that it was perhaps his best novel is more clearly justifiable.
In 1962, Baldwin’s depiction of the lives of New York artists was distant from the mainstream of U. culture, which was beginning to feel the explosive force of a televised Civil Rights movement.
Baldwin assumes in his readers a willingness to accept homosexual and interracial love as good because they too are forms of love.
For example, irony lies in the fact that the soldiers have wounds in the very parts of the body that make what they are, the medals may be meaningless and do not have true value, and the Cova girls are considered the most patriotic people of all.
Those This realization causes the American to drift apart from the other soldiers and their camaraderie suffers from this discrimination and despise.