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Last Reviewed on August 27, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 407

In The Outsider, Richard Wright tells a story of failed rebirth and renewal. Cross Damon, whose name suggests both the crossroads of decision making and the crucifixion that led to resurrection, is offered an opportunity to save himself through a random, senseless act. Instead, he takes steps that greatly worsen his already difficult situation. As he struggles to craft the new identity he has been offered, his desperate need for community propels him into political activity without the necessary commitment to the cause. Added to his existential inauthenticity (in impersonating another person) is his political hypocrisy (in pretending to support the Community Party). Although part of him sympathizes with the anti-racist aspect of the Blounts’s activism, he cannot wholeheartedly embrace the Party’s tenets or tactics.

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Wright skillfully shows the downward spiral of one individual who makes numerous bad choices. More broadly, however, he locates Damon within a complex social system which, he suggests, offers few genuine opportunities for spiritual growth and meaningful political commitment. At each crossroads, it seems that Damon makes the wrong choice—but why? The reader is encouraged to see Damon more as a symbol of the loss of direction that many young African American males experienced during this time. A good example is Damon’s decision to participate in challenging housing discrimination, which was a prevalent social problem. Although this seems to be a good path to follow, he again takes a wrong turn. He not only kills the landlord, Herndon, but also Gil Blount, the Party fellow traveler whose idea he had supported.


(The entire section contains 407 words.)

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