Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Consistent with a major theme of the story—Booker’s Judas-like betrayal of Sue and her son—a major technique to communicate this theme is Wright’s use of religious imagery. This imagery is obviously demonstrated in the title of the story, which is a reference to a spiritual that Sue remembers from her childhood: “Hes the Lily of the Valley, the Bright n Mawnin Star/ Hes the Fairest of Ten Thousan t ma soul.” This musical context is reinforced by frequent references to traditional black Christianity. Repeated throughout the story, these references speak to the role of religion in Sue’s life as a stable, reassuring belief that the toil and struggle and burdens of life on this earth—a painful life for Sue, to be sure—will be replaced by a resurrection such as was experienced by the Jesus in whom she deeply believes. This is her vision.

Sue’s vision, however, is replaced by another vision, one that she views as “a new and terrible vision.” The vision of Christianity is replaced by the vision of communism, and Wright’s imagery dramatically underscores that replacement: “The wrongs and sufferings of black men had taken the place of Him nailed to the Cross; the meager beginnings of the party had become another Resurrection.” This new and terrible vision might have been a source for a new and terrible world order, one in which justice and equality and humanity rule. Instead it is betrayed by Booker and the sheriff and those others who, like the biblical Judas, are more concerned with their security than others’ survival. In this battle, the bright and morning star shines over a battlefield in which both the betrayer and the betrayed are destroyed.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The American Communist Party
The Communist Party, in the United States, was formed on September 1, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois....

(The entire section is 1245 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

The dialog in Wright’s ‘‘Bright and Morning Star’’ is written in a colloquial form, emphasizing the...

(The entire section is 770 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1930s: Mary McLeod Bethune becomes the first African-American woman to receive a major appointment from the U.S. government when she...

(The entire section is 440 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Wright’s ‘‘Bright and Morning Star’’ takes place outside of Memphis, Tennessee, probably in the 1930s. Research the history of this...

(The entire section is 358 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

Wright’s famous novel Native Son was produced as a play on Broadway in 1941. Wright wrote the script along with Paul Green. Orson...

(The entire section is 142 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Sister Carrie (1900) by Theodore Dreiser was instrumental in influencing Wright’s writing style. It was Dreiser’s first novel, and...

(The entire section is 524 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Bakish, David, Richard Wright, Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1973.

Bone, Robert, Richard...

(The entire section is 463 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Baldwin, James. The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985. New York: St. Martin’s Press/Marek, 1985.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Richard Wright. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Butler, Robert.“Native Son”: The Emergence of a New Black Hero. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Fabre, Michel. The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright. Translated by Isabel Barzun. New York: William Morrow, 1973.

Felgar, Robert. Richard Wright. Boston: Twayne, 1980.

Hakutani, Yoshinobu. Richard Wright and Racial Discourse....

(The entire section is 137 words.)