Richard Wright


Throughout history, many talented authors writings have reflected the
time period in which they lived in. Often the overall tone, and attitude
of the novel is due to factors, that they have been born with, such as the
environment they grew up in, who raised them, or moral ethics were
instilled into their way of thinking.

Richard Wright is an African-American author whose writings greatly
reflected the time period in which he lived in. Native Son and Black Boy
are two classic examples of Wright's works that are profoundly influenced
by the era in which he lived.

Wright was born on September 4, 1908, in Natchez, Mississippi on a
small farm much in the same manner that his hero, Bigger Thomas, began his
life. Deprived, poor, and segregated against, Wright spent much of his
early childhood in pain, fear, and shame. He was repeatedly beaten by his
mother and grandmother for trying to fight back at the segregation imposed
upon him. He was also beaten by whites to whom he had to turn for jobs and
he was resentful of the Jim Crow rules by which he had to live. In Black
Boy, Wright's autobiography, he recalls a familiar childhood event: "I
would feel hunger nudging my ribs, twisting my empty guts until they ached.
I would grow dizzy and my vision would dim."

In Black Boy, Wright used his own life to exemplify what qualities of
imagination and intellect are necessary of a southern African-American in
order to understand the meaning of his life in the United States. Black
Boy also reveals it's 'author hero' as a man controlled by an absolute
certainty of his own virtues.

The ethics of living Jim Crow require that Wright be obedient and
silent. So although he was not a slave, he in essence was. He shared the
same emotions as the slaves and emphasized for them. Yet everything we
know about his character has prepared us to expect rebellion.

Wright could not, from his earliest years, tolerate this repression,
and Black Boy is the chronicle of his segregation, not only from the white
society but from with his own society.

While Black Boy represents a picture of a personality corrupted by a
brutal environment, it also presents natural human responses to its world
by a sensitive child.

The very fact that Black Boy is an autobiography of Wright's life is in
itself exemplifying how his life was reflected in his works. Wright's
life, especially his childhood apparently had a great impact on him,
otherwise he would not have written a book about.

Native Son, the novel that Wright is most noted for is also greatly
reflected by the time in which he lived.

Bigger Thomas, the hero and the protagonist of the novel, experiences
escape which takes place within an urban maze that has come to be called
black ghetto. In essence, Bigger's escape has been blocked, it is destined
for failure even before it begins. Just like in Wright's life, he has
grown up in a 'ghetto' of Mississippi, in a society in which he attempts to
rebel but is condemned for doing so.

Bigger Thomas, Wright's fictional character, is in some ways
non-fictional, perhaps because Bigger's rebellious persona is what Wright
strived to be although was unable to do to factors that he could simply not
overcome.

Bigger is an example of the black revolt against the injustices of the
white asti system, and his revolt takes the form of crime against the white
society. Born into a society that is white and hostile, (just as Wright
was) Bigger becomes the total embodiment of that society's prejudices and
hatreds against the black man.

In a way Bigger Thomas is an autobiographical character because so much
of what occurs in bigger's life, similarly occurred in Wright's.

Thus we see that much of Richard Wright's works have been influenced by
the time period in which he lived. Black Boy, Wright's autobiography is
the perfect embodiment of just how great his life reflected his writings.
Native Son, although a fictional book, in many ways still reflected
Wright's life as a rebel. In Native Son, Wright could articulate himself,
using Bigger Thomas as a fictional character to express the powerful spirit
which tried to overcome the white society which oppressed him.