Without a traditional plot or an extensive dramatic thread to carry readers through the novel’s many scenes of urban despair, The Messenger attains its meaning primarily through Wright’s portrayal of the insights and recollections of Charlie, the novelist’s autobiographical protagonist and first-person narrator. Although the novel presents a collection of other characters, these characters tend to exist in relation to Charlie. They are significant to the degree that they shed light on aspects of Charlie’s personality or experience. The artistic impulses of the little girl, Maxine, and the hopefulness of Charlie’s girlfriend, Shirley, for example, present points of contrast to Charlie’s life of poverty, hopelessness, and loneliness. His white friend Troy is similarly important to the novel primarily as an illustration of how difficult even the most well-intentioned relationships can be between members of different races in a society not comfortable with integration.
Wright uses the reportorial style often associated with American novelist and short-story writer Ernest Hemingway to depict how Charlie’s feelings have become numbed by his exposure to scenes of pain and humiliation. Charlie responds in an almost frozen way to scenes of intensely painful content and heavy emotion. The juxtaposition of this objective style with the scenes of terror being depicted is Wright’s method of conveying to readers Charlie’s alienation from the...
(The entire section is 494 words.)