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 year. In that year,...
(The entire section is 608 words.)