Native Son, by Richard Wright, was hailed by reviewers as an instant
classic upon its release in 1940. The novel was an instant bestseller, having
been included in the book-of-the-month-club. Due to its proto revolutionary
themes it was the subject of many reviews. Two such reviewers are Clifton
Fadiman and Malcolm Cowley.
Clifton Fadiman, writer for The New Yorker declared that Native Son was
the most powerful American novel since the Grapes of Wrath. He is positive that
anyone who reads this book has to know what it means to be a Negro, especially
being a Negro in the U.S. over seventy years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Fadiman then goes on to compare the novel to Theodore Dreiser's An American
Tragedy, declaring that his novel did for the American white as Native Son did
for the Negro.
Fadiman begins criticizing Bigger Thomas, the main character in the
novel. He feels that Bigger is just a stupid fool, having done everything
possible to actually get himself caught. Fadiman also writes that Bigger
"...knew that the moment he allowed what his life meant to enter fully into his
consciousness, he would either kill himself or somebody else." Fadiman then
goes on by criticizing Wright stating that he is too explicit, repetitive, and
overdoes his melodrama from time to time. Fadiman does not believe Wright to be
a finished writer just yet. However, he does think that Wright possesses the
two absolute necessities of the first-rate novelist, passion and intelligence.
He also understands that Wright must have been greatly affected by the labor
movement, which may have contributed to Native Son.
At the conclusion of his review, Fadiman once again compares Native Son
to An American Tragedy. He says that the two novels tell almost the same story.
Although He feels that Dreiser's novel is filled with better, more controlled
knowledge; he feels that Wright's novel will have the same affect on the reader
if they are not afraid of a... [continues]
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