Native Son By Right

Richard Wright marked the beginning of a new era in black fiction. He was one of
the first American writers of his time to confront his readers with the effects
of racism. Wright had a way of telling his reader about his own life through his
writing. He is best known for his novel, Native Son, which is deeply rooted in
his personal life and the times in which he lived. This paper will discuss this
outstanding American writer, his highly acclaimed novel, Native Son, and how his
life influenced his writing. Richard Nathaniel Wright, was born on September 4,

1908 in Roxie, Mississippi. His father was a sharecropper and his mother a
schoolteacher. In search for better employment his father moved the family to

Memphis, Tennessee. While in Memphis, his father worked as a night porter in a
hotel and his mother worked as a cook for a Caucasian family. Shortly after
their move to Memphis, Wright’s father deserted his family. His mother then
tried to find any work she could find to support her family. Then, at the age of
seven his mother became ill and was unable to financially support her family. As
a result, the family had to move to Jackson, Mississippi to live with relatives.

Wright remained in Jackson until 1925 (Walker, 13). In 1925, Wright left Jackson
and headed as far as his money could take him, and that was Memphis, Tennessee.

Memphis was the exact same city in which his father had taken his family to find
a better life and where he abandoned them. Wright’s first trip to Memphis
ended in disappointment, desertion, and deprivation. While there Wright found
work as a messenger for an optical company. He lived in Memphis for
approximately two years. During that time, he witnessed the deep and violent

South which eventually would permanently scar him for life. Margaret Walker
wrote: I am convinced that the best of Richard Wright’s fiction grew out of
the first nineteen years of his life. All he ever wrote of great strength and
terrifying beauty must be understood in this light. His subjects and themes, his
folk references and history, his characters and places come from the South of
his childhood and adolescence. His morbid interest in violence-lynching, rape,
and murder-goes back to the murky twilight of a southern past. Out of this
racial nightmare marked with racial suffering, poverty, religious fanaticism and
sexual confusion emerge the five long stories in Uncle Tom’s Children. (Walker

43) The violent impression of Southern racism marked Wright’s personality and
literature. As a result, he would spend his entire life struggling to express
the importance for men to reject the stereotypic notions of race, class, creed,
or any other prejudice and to accept human value that honor the human spirit and
release intelligence. It was Wright’s first nineteen years in the South that
opened up his most powerful and passionate writing (Walker 43). In 1927, at the
age of nineteen Wright migrated to Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, Wright found a
job a as Post Office Clerk and at the same time he continued to self-educate
himself by reading books, magazines, and newspapers. While in Chicago he became
interested in Communism Issues. The interest came as a result of his concern
with the social roots of racial oppression. In 1932, Wright joined the Communist
party. He was a party activist in Chicago and New York. Wright’s involvement
with the Communist party became the subject of most of his fiction writings.

After he broke away from the party his writings were centered around it.

Wright’s years in Chicago are often considered his maturation years, which
were years of growing maturity and preparing for an illustrious future (Metzger

608). Wright’s career as a writer basically began in the 1930’s. In 1930, he
wrote his first novel, Lawd Today. His novel, Lawd Today, however was not
published until after his death. His first published work was, Uncle Tom’s

Children: Five Long Stories, which consists of stories that attack the racial
discrimination and bigotry that Wright encountered as a youth. Throughout

Wright’s career he published many outstanding works. Among his works included:
five novels, two autobiographies, two books of short stories, four nonfiction
books and one collection of essays. Wright’s major influence began when he
published, Native Son , in 1940. Richard Wright’s most notable and highly
acclaimed novel is Native Son. Richard Wright contemplated for a while before he
decided to write a novel in which a Negro, Bigger Thomas, would become a
symbolic figure of American life.