Themes and Meanings
Richard Wright, in his famous essay “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow,” described the psychological as well as the physical restrictions of growing up in the segregated South. The Long Dream is a fictionalized version of that essay. Wright uses the combined techniques of naturalism and psychoanalytic theory to develop the insights sketched in the essay. Although placed in a classic naturalistic environment in which the pressure of society threatens to destroy him, Fishbelly Tucker manages to escape, as a result of his traits of psychological resilience, developed during his Jim Crow upbringing.
Fishbelly’s psychological development is illustrated through a series of dreams that fit Sigmund Freud’s theories introduced in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). Freud explains that dreams are composed of two elements, “infantile experience” and “the day’s residues.” Fishbelly’s dreams, particularly those that occur in the early chapters, are syntheses of traumatic experiences and foreshadow concerns that will be important in the plot. Fishbelly’s “locomotive” dream at the end of chapter 3 is a combination of his statement to his father, whose sexual encounter he interrupted, that he sounded like a locomotive, and of Fishbelly’s own awakening sexuality. It is also a foreshadowing of Fishbelly’s mode of escape from Mississippi: The train takes him to Memphis, from which he leaves the United States for Paris. Likewise, the locomotive again appears in his dream after his older friend Chris Sims...
(The entire section is 630 words.)