Literary Distinctions through Ineradicable Scars
His racial status, his poverty, the disruption of his family, and his faulty education allowed Richard Wright to grow into a novelist astonishingly different than other major American writers. Richard Wright was born on a Rucker plantation in Adams County, Mississippi. He was born on September 4, 1908 to Ella Wilson, a schoolteacher and Nathaniel Wright, a sharecropper. When Wright was about six years old, his father abandoned Ella and his two sons in a penniless condition to run off with another woman. This left Wright’s mother the difficult task of supporting herself and her children on her own, but left Wright with a humiliating kind of loss (Duffus). Soon after his father left, Wright and his mother moved to Memphis, Tennessee. His mother was forced to work as a cook in order to support the family; and during this period, Wright temporarily stayed in an orphanage. Wright’s mother became ill while living in Memphis, so the family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and lived with Ella’s mother. His grandmother was a Seventh Day Adventist so she enrolled him in a Seventh Day Adventist school at the age of twelve. Wright went to a local public high school for a few years, but did not receive a higher-level education (Duffus). In 1925, he moved back to Memphis, Tennessee. He worked at menial jobs such as, carrying lunches for railroad workers, carrying firewood and trays for small cafes, delivering clothes for a pressing shop, sweeping floors, selling newspapers, doing chores for white families, etc. (Kinnamon, 6) He moved to Chicago in 1927 after securing employment as a postal clerk, he read other writers and studied their styles during his time off. Later in 1937, Wright moved to New York, where he began ties with Communist Party members there after getting established. He worked on the WPA Writers’ Project, and wrote the book’s essay on Harlem. Wright became the Harlem editor of the Daily Worker. Wright is considered the most esteemed spokesman for the oppressed African American in the 1930s and 1940s. Some of his several works include Black Boy, Uncle Tom’s Children, The Outsiders, Eight Men, American Hunger, and Native Son. (Duffus). His first fiction, Native Son, chronicles the effects of racism and bigotry in the life of Bigger Thomas, a young black man raised in the ghettos of Chicago. The narrator in Native Son speaks in a limited third-person voice that focuses on Bigger’s thoughts and feelings. Through this limited third-person voice, the narrator brings the reader into Bigger’s mind and situation, helping the reader gain a better insight on Bigger’s complex self. When Wright wrote Native Son, he expressed his belief that society was responsible for creating tragic characters like Bigger Thomas. Quickly, Native Son became one of the most controversial books during the 1930s. Native Son was a turning point in the evolution of black protest fiction (Moorer, 87). Richard Wright uses Fear, Flight, and Fate to explain Bigger Thomas’s inner-development through the themes of oppression, blindness, dehumanization, the illusion of freedom, and redemption. Ultimately, Wright indicates that the inner liberation will only come from within the self.
THE INTELLECTUAL ENVIRONMENT: RACIST THOUGHTS
Adams County was one of the most racist areas, of the most racist state in the country. Wright was subjected to racial discrimination and racial prejudice during his entire life in the United States. This is interesting because America has always been thought to be the land of freedom, where you can find happiness. However, it lacked in giving equality to African Americans. Many people wonder why most of his novels focus on social reality. Keep in mind that during his upbringing, racism was alive - really live. In the early 1900s, suppression of black people was a dominant goal of Mississippi politics (Kinnamon,17). Many African Americans struggled to discover how to survive...
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