Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Long Dream is a combination of naturalistic writing and the bildungsroman, or novel of initiation, concerned with the childhood and adolescence of Rex “Fishbelly” Tucker. Fishbelly is born into a life of comparative privilege and respectability but soon discovers that his father’s cooperation with the white authorities cannot protect him from the realities of the Jim Crow, or segregated, South. In a series of dramatic and psychologically revealing episodes, Wright illustrates, through Tyree Tucker and Fishbelly, his thesis that the life of a black man is “a long dream.”
The novel begins with a number of experiences from Fishbelly’s childhood, the most memorable of which is the lynching of his older friend and sometime mentor Chris Sims. Chris commits the crime of being caught in a hotel room with a white girl. After he is discovered, killed, and mutilated by a white mob, his body is taken to Tyree’s funeral home for burial. In a moment of revelation for the young Fishbelly, his father takes him to the funeral home to display to him the badly beaten face of Chris Sims, as a warning and a demonstration of the power the white world has over the black.
Fishbelly grows up to be a respected member of the middle-class black community of Clintonville. After a brief encounter with the police while trespassing on a white property owner’s land, Fishbelly manages to avoid any contact with the white world until his sixteenth...
(The entire section is 608 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The Long Dream is set in Clintonville, a Mississippi town of twenty-five thousand people, ten thousand of them black. The narrative is told from the point of view of Rex Tucker, nicknamed Fishbelly, a name his friends have shortened to Fish. The story begins when Fishbelly is a young child. He is the son of a prosperous black businessman whose undertaking business provides a front for his other enterprises, including ownership of many dilapidated rental properties, a bordello whose prostitutes and customers are black, and coownership with Dr. Bruce, a prosperous black professional, of The Grove, a dance hall frequented by blacks.
As a child, Fishbelly accidentally sees his father in a compromising situation with Gloria, his father’s mistress. Fishbelly is intrigued by what he sees. He does not want to look, but he cannot make himself turn away. The event causes the boy to have a highly symbolic dream, which strongly suggests that Fishbelly has a castration complex, a problem that is to figure significantly in his later life.
Fishbelly is relatively protected in his early youth. He knows little of the racial tensions that characterize the Mississippi of his youth. His parents have a comfortable existence, as secure an existence as black people in the Deep South of the mid-1930’s could have. Thus, only gradually does the boy become aware of the underlying dangers that face blacks in a racist society.
Fishbelly is first...
(The entire section is 1058 words.)