Critical Analysis of "The Man Who Lived Underground"

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Adam, Watson. “Fred Daniels As Christ Noir: The Shadow-Savior Imagery Of “The Man Who Lived Underground”. InsightHbb.com, 2003. 29 February. 2012..

In his critical analysis, Adam Watson attempts to interpret the protagonist in Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Lived Underground”, Fred Daniels, as “Christ Noir”. He uses the imagery from the text, created by Wright, to depict Daniels as this Christ Noir character. Throughout his piece, Watson analyzes the symbols, such as the watches that were nailed to the cave walls and the meat cleaver, to make a reference to various symbols that are connected to Jesus Christ. The Noir in “Christ Noir” can be depicted in two ways. The first way to define “noir” would be crime literature. This type of literature includes hardened, cynical characters and drab settings that are evocative of danger and violence. The second meaning of the word is literally black (in French). In calling Fred Daniels “Christ Noir”, Watson is describing both the tone of the novel and it’s protagonist. Besides his “Christ Noir” theory, Watson also hints at capitalism and film, the communist party and Wright’s participation, and some black vs. white imagery. These points do not have much to do with the his Christ theory, but are still somewhat substantial because of their overall importance to the novel.

One of the most obvious Daniels-Christ comparisons is the dream Fred Daniels had of him walking on water just as Jesus Christ had. He doesn’t spend much time on the topic, but I feel it is one of the strongest comparisons. If Daniels is to be interpreted as a Christ figure, it is important to heavily dissect the paramount event in both the novel and the life of Jesus Christ. In the novel, Fred Daniels is “fleeing unjust persecution” (Watson). When he descends into the sewer, Watson calls it “a vulgar kind of baptism” and sees it as the death of Daniels. Watson reports that this “baptism” is the product of our sins-the unjust accusations brought...
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