Big black good man

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Big black good man

By | October 2008
Page 1 of 3
In the short story Big Black Good Man, Richard Wright uses several literary devices, although the most apparent devices are character, point of view and an underlying theme. The literary devices that Richard Wright employs allow the reader to sense that the characters point of view and choice of setting represent the contrast and character development throughout the story and in the end, represents the idea that external differences do not always match internal intentions.

The authors choice of characters in this story presents an interesting situation, the hero a poor elderly white man named Olaf who works as the night porter for a hotel in Denmark is a brilliant contrast to the antagonist, a rather wealthy large black sailor named Jim. The diversity between the characters creates a lot of tension between the two in dialogue and other aspects of the hotel manager and tenant relationship. Especially so because, as the story progresses we become more and more aware of Olaf's feelings towards Jim which are quite racist.

Richard Wright tells the story from Olaf's perspective, from this point of view Wright establishes that although Olaf states that he is not a racist, his thoughts make it clear that he is. One point where this becomes apparent is in Olaf's bloody dreams of Jim being drowned and eaten by "a shark, a white one." The only reprehension Olaf felt about his dreams came when he imagines the "many innocent people, women and children, all white and blonde" would die as well as Jim when his ship sank. Not only does Olaf care more about the lives of white people than the lives of black people, he views Jim as something less than human because of his blackness.

When the reader views Jim from Olaf's point of view Olaf never refers to Jim by name. We only know that Jim is his name because Olaf told him to write "Jim" on the envelope that contained his money. Even though Olaf knows Jim's name he never calls him Jim. Instead, he uses other terms such as...