Richard Wright 1908-1960
(Full name Richard Nathaniel Wright) American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, poet, and autobiographer.
The following entry provides criticism on Wright's works from 1985 through 2001. See also Richard Wright Criticism (Volume 1), and Volumes 3, 4, 9, 14, 21.
A seminal figure in African American literature, Wright has been called one of the most powerful and influential writers of twentieth-century America. He was one of the first writers to portray—often in graphic, brutal accounts—the dehumanizing effects of racism on African Americans. His stories usually center on alienated and impoverished black men who, denied freedom and personal identity, lash out against society. Scholars have hailed Native Son (1940) and Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth as Wright's most accomplished works. Although some critics fault Wright's oeuvre as too violent and unabashedly propagandistic, such prominent writers as James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison consider them essential works of African American literature.
Wright was born on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi, on September 4, 1908. When he was six years old, his father abandoned the family, forcing his mother to work as a cook for a white family. Life in the South was difficult, and Wright and his younger brother Leon frequently went without food. Wright's first indelible encounter with racial hatred and violence occurred during the family's brief stay with an uncle, who was murdered by a group of white men trying to seize his property. Fearing for their lives, the Wrights fled to West Helena, Arkansas; young Wright was about eight or nine years old. They eventually returned to Mississippi, but Wright went to live with his grandmother when his mother became ill. His formal schooling, frequently interrupted as he moved from town to town, ended when he was seventeen. Wright was strongly influenced by the work of H. L. Mencken, whose trenchant language and outspoken critical opinions awakened him to the possibility of social protest through writing. He also read the fiction of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, and Theodore Dreiser. In 1927 Wright left the South for Chicago. He worked at various menial jobs, all the while reading and writing extensively. During the Depression he joined the WPA Writers' Project and became active in the Communist Party, contributing articles, poems, and short stories to various communist newspapers. In 1944, after witnessing the trial of a party member for ideological “deviationism,” Wright resigned from the party. Wright died in Paris at the age of fifty-two on November 28, 1960.
Wright's first major publication was a collection of short stories inspired by the life of an African American communist he had known in Chicago. All of the stories in Uncle Tom's Children (1938) deal with the oppression of black people in the South, of the violence of whites against blacks, and the violence to which the black characters are driven by their victimization. His next book, Native Son, chronicled the story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man in Chicago who accidentally murders a white woman and is condemned to death. To depict the dehumanization of blacks in the “hard and deep” manner he wished, Wright avoided making his protagonist a sympathetic character. His autobiographical work, Black Boy, has been called a masterpiece. A work structured in many ways like a novel, the book recounts Wright's experiences as a youth in the South. In this work, Wright attacks both white oppression and the predatory nature of members of his own race. He rebukes his strict religious upbringing and reprimands blacks for their servile response to racial subjugation.
After the commercial success of Native Son and Black Boy, Wright moved with his second wife and daughter to Paris, France, in 1947. Here, he found refuge from the racial tensions of the United States and became friends with several noted intellectuals, including Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus. Wright's literary output during this period, including the novels The Outsider (1953), Savage Holiday (1954), and The Long Dream (1958), is generally considered inferior to his earlier achievements. Eight Men (1961), a posthumously published collection of short stories, contains “The Man Who Lived Underground,” which is often regarded as Wright's most important fictional work of the 1950s.
In addition to his novels and short stories, Wright produced several nonfiction works: 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States (1941), a textual and photographic history of racial prejudice in the United States; Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos (1954), a work that recalls Wright's visit to Takoradi, a British colony in Africa where a black man had been appointed prime minister; and The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (1956), Wright's reflections on a conference held in Indonesia by the free nations of the Third World. Pagan Spain (1957) recounts Wright's bitterness over the poverty and corruption he observed while traveling in Spain, and White Man, Listen! (1957) contains four lectures by Wright on race relations.
Wright's reputation ebbed during the 1950s as younger African American writers such as Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin gained in popularity. But in the 1960s, with the growth of the militant Black consciousness movement, there was a resurgence of interest in Wright's work. His place in American literature remains controversial: some critics contend that his writing is of sociological and historical, rather than literary, interest. In the judgment of many commentators, however, Wright remains the most influential African American protest writer in America. According to Ellison, Wright “converted the American Negro impulse toward self-annihilation and ‘going underground’ into a will to confront the world, to evaluate his experience honestly and throw his findings unashamedly into the guilty conscience of America.”
Uncle Tom's Children: Four Novellas (short stories) 1938
Native Son (novel) 1940
12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States (nonfiction) 1941
Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth (autobiography) 1945
The Outsider (novel) 1953
Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos (nonfiction) 1954
Savage Holiday (novel) 1954
The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (nonfiction) 1956
Pagan Spain (nonfiction) 1957
White Man, Listen! (lectures) 1957
The Long Dream (novel) 1958
Eight Men (short stories) 1961
Daddy Goodness [with Louis Sapin] (play) 1963
Lawd Today (novel) 1963
American Hunger (autobiography) 1977
The Richard Wright Reader (essays, novel excerpts, letters, and poetry) 1978
Richard Wright: Works 2 vols. (novels, essays, and autobiography) 1991
Rite of Passage (novella) 1994
*Haiku (poetry) 2000
*The works in this volume were written in 1960 and appeared in manuscript form as This Other World: Projections in the Haiku...
(The entire section is 134 words.)
SOURCE: Thaddeus, Janice. “The Metamorphosis of Richard Wright's Black Boy.” American Literature 57, no. 2 (May 1985): 199-214.
[In the following essay, Thaddeus chronicles the publishing history of Black Boy and traces the book's metamorphosis from an open autobiography to a closed one.]
There are two kinds of autobiography—defined and open. In a defined autobiography, the writer presents his life as a finished product. He is likely to have reached a plateau, a moment of resolution which allows him to recollect emotion in tranquility. This feeling enables him to create a firm setting for his reliable self, to see this self in relief against society or history. Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, for instance, is a defined autobiography, a public document, moving undeviatingly from self-denial to self-discovery. It rests on the fulcrum of: “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.”1 The writer of an open autobiography differs from Douglass and others like him in that he is searching, not telling, so that like Boswell or Rousseau he offers questions instead of answers. He does not wish to supply a fulcrum, does not proffer conclusions and solutions, and consequently he refrains from shaping his life neatly in a teleological plot. The tone and purpose of an open autobiography are entirely...
(The entire section is 6181 words.)
SOURCE: Miller, James A. “Bigger Thomas's Quest for Voice and Audience in Richard Wright's Native Son.” Callaloo 9, no. 3 (summer 1986): 501-06.
[In the following essay, Miller argues that the concluding scene of Native Son illustrates Bigger's recovery of his voice, which “not only undermines the argument that Max functions as a spokesman for Wright's political views but also challenges the view that Bigger himself is inarticulate.”]
Critical commentary about Native Son has invariably focused on the meaning of the final section of the novel, particularly Max's impassioned speech to the judge in his vain attempt to save Bigger Thomas's life and the final encounter between Max and Bigger at the end of the novel. Max's appearance in the novel has been regarded by many critics—among them Irving Howe, Robert Bone, Dan McCall, Edward Margolies, and Russell Brignano—as an ideological intrusion which disrupts the artistic unity of Native Son.1 To the extent to which Max speaks for Bigger Thomas and, by implication, for Richard Wright—so the argument goes—Wright succumbs to his own ideological (i.e., political) impulses at the expense of his literary artistry. One important consequence of the centrality some readers and critics confer upon Max's role in Native Son is that it inevitably leads to the conclusion that Bigger Thomas himself is...
(The entire section is 3210 words.)
SOURCE: Hakutani, Yoshinobu. “Richard Wright's Experiment in Naturalism and Satire: Lawd Today.” Studies in American Fiction 14, no. 2 (autumn 1986): 165-78.
[In the following essay, Hakutani offers a stylistic analysis of Lawd Today and compares it to James Joyce's Ulysses.]
Lawd Today, completed by 1935 and released posthumously in 1963, is an anomaly in Richard Wright's canon since it was written first but published last. Not only has it puzzled critics since its publication, but it has elicited a variety of responses. Granville Hicks, in a review entitled “Dreiser to Farrell to Wright,” affectionately defended Lawd Today, calling it less powerful than Native Son or Black Boy but uniquely interesting.1 What interested Hicks in this novel is that, though Wright was an avowed communist at the time of composition, he did not make a communist out of Jake Jackson, its protagonist. Jake even despises communism, but he also refuses to become a victim of capitalism. Sympathetic critics have considered Wright's delineation of Jake superb, or at least as good as that of any other character in his best fiction: Jake is uneducated, frustrated, but alive. Even James Baldwin, who had earlier assailed Wright's treatment of Bigger Thomas in Native Son,2 came around and said “his great forte, it now seems to me, was an ability to convey...
(The entire section is 6451 words.)
SOURCE: Joyce, Joyce Ann. “The Critical Background and a New Perspective.” In Richard Wright's Art of Tragedy, pp. 1-28. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1986.
[In the following essay, Joyce surveys the critical reception to Wright's work, focusing on interpretations of his novel Native Son.]
In his essay aptly titled “The ‘Fate’ Section of Native Son,” Edward Kearns, in a discussion of courses in Afro-American literature, summarizes the “fate” of criticism written on the works of Black literary artists: “… black American writers have been nearly excluded from serious critical attention, and when attention has been paid, the black American writer has generally been treated as an author of social documents rather than works of art” (149). No criticism on the works of a Black writer demonstrates the validity of Kearns's statement more than that written on Richard Wright's Native Son. The immediate impact of Native Son elevated Wright to the position of father of Black American literature, changed the course of Black American fiction, and attracted the attention of literary circles all over the world. First published in 1940, Native Son is continually translated from English into other languages: Czech, 1947; Danish, 1959; Dutch, 1947; Finnish, 1972; French, 1947; Georgian, 1971; German, 1941; Italian, 1948; Japanese, 1972; Norwegian, 1947; Polish, 1969;...
(The entire section is 9077 words.)
SOURCE: Saunders, James Robert. “The Social Significance of Wright's Bigger Thomas.” College Literature 14, no. 1 (winter 1987): 32-7.
[In the following essay, Saunders traces the evolution of Bigger Thomas into a character of social significance.]
In an article entitled “Richard Wright's Blues,” which is included in his volume of essays, Shadow and Act, Ralph Ellison describes what he regards as a “basic ambiguity” in Richard Wright's sensational Native Son. Ellison, a contemporary of Wright's who survived to evaluate new generations of black American writers, assessed it as a crucial flaw that “Wright had to force into Bigger's consciousness concepts and ideas which his intellect could not formulate.”1 That complaint stems from Ellison's belief that Wright compromised too much of his own personality to achieve the fundamental theme of Bigger Thomas' frustrated existence.
To determine the validity of Ellison's complaint one must ask who is Bigger Thomas and why did the author find it necessary to create such a terrifying character? The novel might just as easily have been an American romance or at least a tale of people managing to find some solace in the midst of a world that has become increasingly complex. Wright, however, chose to give us an unpleasant view of American life, and thus the controversial anti-hero Bigger Thomas was created. The...
(The entire section is 2013 words.)
SOURCE: Mayberry, Susan Neal. “Symbols in the Sewer: A Symbolic Renunciation of Symbols in Richard Wright's ‘The Man Who Lived Underground’.” South Atlantic Review 54, no. 1 (January 1989): 71-83.
[In the following essay, Mayberry explores the heavy symbolism of Wright's short story “The Man Who Lived Underground.”]
The fact that Richard Wright's “The Man Who Lived Underground” is somewhat paradoxically a long short story prepares its reader for its multiple ambiguities and explains the range of interpretations that have resulted from them. The short story has been variously described as a depiction of the social and ethical problems facing the American black (Gounard 381), a “perfect modern allegory” exposing the sewage of the human heart (Margolies), a rendering of Freudian guilt (Fabre, “Underground”; Margolies), a surrealistic search for identity (Bakish; Fabre, “Naturalism”), the paradox of the sightless seer who comes to visualize his invisibility (Felgar), a study in pessimism (Brignano; Everette), and an existentialist parable that surpasses the frequent absurdist theme of estrangement to offer hope (Ridenour). It has been called a “quasi-mythological quest” and an “epiphany of artistic creation.” One critic considers the story in terms of ritual, specifically the rites of the black w(hole), and of phenomenology (Baker 144, 157-72). Another suggests that...
(The entire section is 5507 words.)
SOURCE: Dick, Bruce. “Richard Wright and the Blues Connection.” Mississippi Quarterly 42, no. 4 (fall 1989): 393-408.
[In the following essay, Dick discusses Wright's blues songs and critical work, contending that he “easily stands as one of the forerunners of interpretive blues criticism.”]
Of the major twentieth-century African-American writers, Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison are famous for celebrating their forebears' folk roots. Hurston secured a permanent place among eminent American folklorists after the release of Mules and Men (1935), her monumental study of black American folk beliefs. Ellison also joined the first rank of American writers with the publication of Invisible Man (1952), which traced a young black man's coming to terms with his folk past. Although critics rarely say so, the same folk interests that kindled the writings of Hurston and Ellison also inspired the works of Richard Wright, their contemporary.
Wright recognized the important value of African-American folk culture, particularly a form that received but scant critical attention during his lifetime, the blues. In fact, considering his numerous writings on the blues, which included a long article extolling Huddie Ledbetter, an essay comparing the blues to surrealism, several record reviews, and the foreword to blues critic Paul Oliver's first important book, Blues Fell This...
(The entire section is 6427 words.)
SOURCE: Harris, Trudier. “Native Sons and Foreign Daughters.” In New Essays on Native Son, edited by Keneth Kinnamon, pp. 63-84. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
[In the following essay, Harris investigates the role of African American women in Native Son.]
The black women Richard Wright depicts in Native Son (1940) are portrayed as being in league with the oppressors of black men. Wright sets up an opposition in the novel between the native and the foreign, between the American Dream and American ideals in the abstract and Afro-Americans trying to find their place among those ideals, between Bigger as a representative of something larger and freer, indeed more American, than the limitations of the black community and the black women as representatives of a culture and a way of life that would stifle such aspirations. Wright thereby creates a paradoxical position for the black women in the novel. By preaching subservience, especially in the acceptance of and training for menial jobs, the women act in ways that are antithetical or “foreign” to individual black development, but commensurate with or “native” to what whites want for blacks. The women provide a contrast to Bigger, who, in his desire to break out of the confines of racism, adheres to American individualism: in his most idealistic conception, he is “native” to the best of American traditions and “foreign”...
(The entire section is 8673 words.)
SOURCE: Tuttleton, James W. “The Problematic Texts of Richard Wright.” In The Critical Response to Richard Wright, edited by Robert J. Butler, pp. 167-72. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995.
[In the following essay, originally published in 1992, Tuttleton reflects on Wright's place in American literature and his inclusion in The Library of America series.]
It is an event of great cultural importance to have, at last, the best of Richard Wright in The Library of America series.1 Thus far, with respect to black writers, only W. E. B. DuBois has been represented, although it is only fair to the Library to remark that the best black writers are modern, and considerations of copyright and high royalty fees have delayed the appearance of many twentieth-century writers—both white and black.
In a manner of speaking, the reprint of a writer's work in The Library of America may be perceived as a sign of greatness, even an admission to the “canon of classic texts.” At the very least it is a great honor, for most readers probably assent to the project's claim of offering “the only definitive collection of America's greatest writers.” Definitive is a loaded word, about which I shall say more, but whatever his flaws, Richard Wright belongs, in my judgment, in this distinguished group—which includes, at least in the Library series, such familiars as Twain, Crane,...
(The entire section is 4136 words.)
SOURCE: Porter, Horace A. “The Horror and the Glory: Wright's Portrait of the Artist in Black Boy and American Hunger.” In Richard Wright: Critical Perspectives Past and Present, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and K. A. Appiah, pp. 316-27. New York: Amistad, 1993.
[In the following essay, Porter suggests that Black Boy and American Hunger should be read in order, viewing the two autobiographies as a portrait of the artist.]
As the curtain falls on the final page of American Hunger, the continuation of Richard Wright's autobiography, Black Boy, he is alone in his “narrow room, watching the sun sink slowly in the chilly May sky.” Having just been attacked by former Communist associates as he attempted to march in the May Day parade, he ruminates about his life. He concludes that all he has after living in both Mississippi and Chicago, are “words and a dim knowledge that my country has shown me no examples of how to live a human life.” Wright ends his autobiography with the following words:
… I wanted to try to build a bridge of words between me and that world outside, that world which was so distant and elusive that it seemed unreal.
I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if no echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other...
(The entire section is 5751 words.)
SOURCE: Folks, Jeffrey J. “‘Last Call to the West’: Richard Wright's The Color Curtain.” In South Atlantic Review 59, no. 4 (November 1994): 77-88.
[In the following essay, Folks asserts that Wright's The Color Curtain includes insight on the relationship between the Western and non-Western worlds.]
As the record of Richard Wright's travel to Indonesia in 1955 to attend the Bandung Conference of African and Asian nations, The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (1956) reveals Richard Wright's effort to understand his own identity in relation to non-Western cultures. In his capacity as a free-lance observer rather than delegate, Wright was perhaps more independent ideologically than others, although his indirect State Department funding (through the Congress for Cultural Freedom) without Wright's knowledge “was actually financed in part by the CIA” (Cobb 233). Without overestimating Wright's understanding of his non-Western subject (James Baldwin charges: “[Wright's] notions of society, politics, and history … seemed to me utterly fanciful” ), I hope to establish that The Color Curtain, in addition to telling much about Wright's independence as a thinker and his autobiographical predilections, says much that is still worth considering about the relationship of the West to the non-Western world. As Michel Fabre writes after considering...
(The entire section is 4559 words.)
SOURCE: Hakutani, Yoshinobu. “Nature, Haiku, and ‘This Other World’.” In Richard Wright and Racial Discourse, pp. 261-91. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.
[In the following essay, Hakutani chronicles Wright's interest in the haiku during his later years, contending that his experiments with this poetic form “poignantly express a desire to transcend social and racial differences and a need to find union and harmony with nature.”]
In 1960, less than a year before his death, Wright selected, under the title This Other World: Projections in the Haiku Manner, 817 out of the about four thousand haiku he had composed since the summer of the previous year.1 His motive for writing so many haiku in the final years of his life is not entirely known, but he told Margrit de Sablonière, his Dutch translator and friend: “During my illness I experimented with the Japanese form of poetry called haiku; I wrote some 4,000 of them and am now sifting them out to see if they are any good.”2 It is also known that a young South African who loved haiku described the form to Wright, who in turn borrowed from him the four volumes of Haiku by R. H. Blyth, a well-detailed study of the genre and a commentary on the works of classic and some modern Japanese haiku poets.3
A reading of the haiku in This Other...
(The entire section is 11359 words.)
SOURCE: Harding, Desmond. “The Power of Place: Richard Wright's Native Son.” CLA Journal 40, no. 3 (March 1997): 367-79.
[In the following essay, Harding investigates Wright's utilization of architectural determinism in his novel Native Son.]
The theory of architectural determinism, which has been linked to theories of environmental and physical determinism, is the assertion that the three-dimensional layout of the physical environment has a direct effect upon human behavior, that changes in “built form” can result in changes in human behavior.1 The degree to which this deterministic theory has been held over from the nineteenth century by twentieth-century architects is clear from the design philosophies of individuals such as Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. Contemporary studies supporting a theory of architectural determinism have, among other things, focused on the relationship between architectural environment(s) and human behavior. Architect Romaldo Guirgola, for example, writes: “The structure of the building articulates the interior spaces with a clear rhythm that reinforces rather than obscures the progress toward a coordination of a larger architectural environment,”2 while the work of Charles Holahan and Susan Sagert concludes that where people have more clear-cut territories and opportunities to personalize them—“sociopetal” as opposed to...
(The entire section is 4086 words.)
SOURCE: George, Stephen K. “The Horror of Bigger Thomas: The Perception of Form without Face in Richard Wright's Native Son.” African-American Review 31, no. 3 (fall 1997): 497-504.
[In the following essay, George explores Bigger Thomas's inability to interact and make connections with others by applying the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas.]
Richard Wright's depiction of Bigger Thomas, a young African American whose social environment moves him to murder and rape, is meant to be both sympathetic and shocking. We, as readers, are to feel compassion for Bigger as he is caught up in economic and racial forces he can neither comprehend nor control, but we are also to be horrified at his retaliatory answer: the gaining of freedom and identity through brutally unfeeling acts of violence. At once we are both compelled and repelled by Bigger; he is both a lonely individual robbed of dignity and hope in a world where “‘you [as a black man] ain't a man no more’” (326), as well as a monstrous symbol of what could happen nation-wide if society refuses to make the American dream of freedom and opportunity open to all. As Wright later wrote in “How ‘Bigger’ Was Born,” his protagonist looms “as a symbolic figure of American life, a figure who would hold within him the prophecy of our future” and “the outlines of action and feeling which we would encounter on a vast scale in the...
(The entire section is 4605 words.)
SOURCE: Caron, Timothy P. “‘The Reds Are in the Bible Room’: The Bible and Political Activism in Richard Wight's Uncle Tom's Children.” In Struggles over the Word: Race and Religion in O'Connor, Faulkner, Hurston, and Wright, pp. 112-40. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Caron underscores the importance of African American religiosity and political radicalism in Wright's Uncle Tom's Children.]
When Israel was in Egyptland, Let my people go, Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let my people go. Go down, Moses … Tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go.
The genius of these preachers lay in their ability to adapt what they had learned to the existing needs and circumstances of their people and to transpose the white man's message of subservient obedience into a confident awareness that things were not as they should be, or as they would be.
—C. Eric Lincoln
Like Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright recognized that African-American religiosity provided psychic health for blacks by assuring them that they would not always be oppressed in the “Egyptland” of the Jim Crow South. He also recognized the black church's radical potential and its ability to equip Southern blacks with an indigenous belief system for hastening and contributing to their own liberation.1...
(The entire section is 8581 words.)
SOURCE: Smethurst, James. “Invented by Horror: The Gothic and African American Literary Ideology in Native Son.” African American Review 35, no. 1 (spring 2001): 29-40.
[In the following essay, Smethurst examines the role of the gothic in Native Son.]
Richard Wright's Native Son is still usually taken as one of the foremost examples of late American naturalism, and much is made of the impact of modern sociology, particularly what became known as the Chicago School of Sociology, on the conception and shape of the novel.1 Yet numerous scholars, at least in passing, have remarked on the influence of the gothic tradition on Wright's novel, arguing to one degree or another whether his usage of the gothic undermines or supports the sociological “realism” of the work.2 However, the crucial importance of gothic literature and what might be thought of as the gothic sensibility to the representation of political consciousness and political development (and the relation of the gothic to contemporary mass culture) in Native Son has not received much sustained scholarly attention. The primary question here is not whether Native Son is a gothic novel, but how the gothic functions within the novel and how it relates to the African American folk culture of the South as well as the mass culture associated with the urban North. In fact, Native Son is not a...
(The entire section is 7302 words.)
SOURCE: Evans, Dennis F. “The Good Women, Bad Women, Prostitutes and Slaves of Pagan Spain: Richard Wright's Look Beyond the Phallocentric Self.” In Richard Wright's Travel Writings: New Reflections, edited by Virginia Whatley Smith, pp. 165-75. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001.
[In the following essay, Evans argues that Wright's travel book Pagan Spain offers valuable insights into Richard Wright as a writer and a person through his sympathetic treatment of Spanish women.]
I wanted to go to Spain, but something was holding me back. The only thing that stood between me and a Spain that beckoned as much as it repelled was a state of mind.
—Richard Wright, Pagan Spain
Every native feels himself to be more or less a “foreigner” in his “own and proper” place, and that metaphorical value of the word “foreigner” first leads the citizen to a feeling of discomfort as to his sexual, national, political, professional identity. Next it impels him to identify—sporadically, to be sure, but nonetheless intensely—with the other.
—Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves
Stephen Butterfield's idea that autobiography “lives in the two worlds of history and literature, objective fact and subjective awareness,”...
(The entire section is 5378 words.)
Kinnamon, Keneth, Joseph Benson, Michel Fabre, and Craig Werner. A Richard Wright Bibliography: Fifty Years of Criticism and Commentary, 1933-1982. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988, 1983 p.
Primary and secondary bibliography.
Fabre, Michel. The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright, translated by Isabel Barzun. New York: William Morrow, 1973, 652 p.
Rowley, Hazel. Richard Wright: The Life and Times. New York: Henry Holt, 2001, 626 p.
Biographical study with selected bibliography.
Algeo, Ann M. “Richard Wright's Native Son.” In The Courtroom as Forum: Homicide Trials by Dreiser, Wright, Capote, and Mailer, pp. 43-73. New York: Peter Lang, 1996.
Analyzes Book Three of Native Son.
Butler, Robert. Native Son: The Emergence of a New Black Hero. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991, 133 p.
Provides a thematic and stylistic analysis of Native Son.
———. The Critical Response to Richard Wright. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995, 199 p.
Collection of previously published critical essays on Wright's work.
Davis, Thadious M....
(The entire section is 632 words.)