The main events take place in New York in the sixties of our century. Black young and talented musician Rufus met with the southern Leona. A woman has a difficult life, her husband left her, taking away her child. The most difficult was the inaction of relatives who did not wish to help her at this difficult time. Leon and Rufus fall in love with each other and decide to live together. But the condemnation of others, even the most freethinkers in the Greenwich Village, became intolerable for them. Rufus reacts sharply to the hostile around and bristles at those who are against the love of the white woman and the Negro.
In Rufus, forgotten complexes of the outcast from Harlem woke up, which he considered defeated in himself when he moved to Greenwich Village and became friends with a circle of free artistic bohemia. Because of the internal tension Rufus is looking for occasions to quarrel with Leon, acute alienation alternates with bouts of passion. Rufus insults and even beats Leon.
Leon is going mad with grief, she is taken to a psychiatric hospital, where her brother visited her and took her to the South, home. Rufus from the class drummer becomes a drunkard, loses his job and wanders around New York streets, tormented by belated remorse. He, tired and hungry, came to a friend, the beginning writer, Vivaldo. But even the real friendship of the latter, who did not stop looking for Rufus all this time, does not help to save himself from oppressive loneliness. He commits suicide by throwing himself off the bridge.
The people reacted differently to Rufus’s death. The writer who follows commercial profit and buried his talent, Richard Silenski, said that he himself is to blame for what happened to him. His wife, a strong and intelligent Cass, who admired the personal qualities and talent of a dark-skinned musician, felt that Rufus’ friends could do more to save that. With her sister Rufus, Ida, who believes that if Rufus and his family were among the same dark-skinned people, he would now be alive. The trouble with his brother was that he could not defend himself because of his heightened sensitivity. Vivaldo and Kes come to the funeral, where the priest preaches that Rufus should not have lost his way and left the house, stopping going to church. According to the priest, this world was filled by the dead, they even occupy state posts.
Sadness for the deceased Rufus brought Ida and Vivaldo closer together. They often meet
and do not even notice the moment when they become irreplaceable to each other. Vivaldo fell in love for the first time in his life. He had a lot of adventures, but never a real feeling. They are both creative natures. Ida dreams of becoming a successful singer, Vivaldo writes a book. Both have a difficult life experience.
Vivaldo introduces Ida with his circle of friends when a suitable occasion has turned up: Richard Silenski arranges a holiday in connection with the publication of his book. Richard is the mentor of Vivaldo, the teacher in a direct, not only figurative sense: in the school where Vivaldo studied, he taught. A young guy, and after studying, sees him as a mentor. He envies the kind glory of Richard. His own book is written very slowly. After reading Richard’s book, he is disappointed. Richard went along the easy path, betraying their ideals, wrote the soy product as a good artisan, and not a bleeding heart artist. Vivaldo is a maximalist in himself, his idol for imitation is Dostoevsky. Richard acquires new acquaintances among the big publishers, literary agencies, the TV and show business ringleader, and not among the poor Bohemian Greenwich Village. Based on his novel, they are going to make a film. One day Ida and Vivaldo visited Silencki and met one big television producer, Ellis. He is blinded by the beauty of Ida and promises to arrange her promotion if she is as talented as she is beautiful. Vivaldo, listening to the complement of the exhausted Ide, feels a wave of hatred for the money-bags, confident that everything is sold and bought.
From Paris to New York came back artist Eric Jones, who was invited to play in the Broadway play. He is bisexual and fled a few years ago from the city to forget the unrequited passion for Rufus. Eric’s complications associated with sexual self-determination originate in his childhood in the South, Alabama. Indifferent parents were cool to the child and he grew insecure, a timid boy. Only one man was kind to him-a stoker, a negro Henry. In the boiler room Erik listened to the stories of the man, spending a long time there.
Only in Paris, Eric finally was able to become self-confident, he accepted his “feature” and learned to live in it no longer tormented. In his craft he is intolerant of compromises, particularly demanding of himself and has reached a profession of much. The cute Cass, taking a guest actor, immediately noticed the difference between that Eric, who returned to New York after a long absence and the same. The person Richard turned into, her husband, is not at all like Eric, who critically evaluates his actions and himself. The self-confidence of mediocrity became visible in him. He began to condescendingly treat previous friends and is very self-confident. Cass, sincerely disappointed in her husband, because she never worried about commercial success, even for their children. Is his success a counterfeit and whether it was necessary for her to give up a lot for him?
Between Richard and Camm ripens conflict. Cass is locked in herself, not to mention her displeasure with her husband. He, too, is silent. His wife makes long walks alone.
She is unbearable in the house. During one of the walks, she met Eric and they became lovers. They do not expect long-term relationships, they simply need support and warmth of each other.
Meanwhile Ida has the first concert in a small bar in Greenic Village. The capricious and sophisticated audience accepts the young singer well, despite the shortcomings of the unrepresented voice and the lack of technique. Her manner of execution is individual and unshakable – a rare quality without a name. At this time, Vivaldo learned that the girl was supported by Ellis, paying her lessons on vocals with the famous master and so on. The young man does not know for sure, but he realizes that people like Ellis do not do anything just like that. He rushes in misery and anguish of jealousy and suddenly he has a push in writing a book, starting to work enthusiastically.
The crisis in the relations of both pairs is almost at the same time.
At the moment when Cass late returns home, Richard tries to talk to her frankly. Simple-hearted Cass tells everything without a secret: about doubts about their marriage, about a love affair with Eric. In the eyes of her husband, Cass feels so much pain that it shocks her. She thinks that they still have a hard time and their love has not died. They have a lot to revise in the relationship, to try to save or revive the remnants of their marriage and love.
The idea was harder than Cass, to admit Vivaldo of treason, but she did it. His wife Richard, though there is an excuse for a sincere attraction to Eric, respect for him. Ida just sold out. Grasping her teeth, she told Vivaldo, with a shuddering face, what it was like to be a black girl in the world of mainstream white men. After the suicide of Rufus, she decided that she would not finish as he would be able to achieve anything he wanted in any way. Entering into a shameful relationship with Ellis, she knew that after and by itself would have some meaning if she played cards rpavilno. Returning from meetings with Ellis, Ida went to Vivaldo, in her soul begging someone not to be in the house. She despises and hates herself. It would have continued further if she had not met one friend of her deceased brother, a musician who called her a black bed for the whites.
Vivaldo finds it hard to say anything. In the end, he silently clings to his weeping Ida and embraces. They stand for a long time like two unhappy, tortured children.