Bright and Morning Star Style and Technique

Richard Wright

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.