There are 15 critical essays on Native Son.
Critical Essays on Native Son
Critical Essay by Joyce Ann Joyce
9,064 words, approx. 30 pages
In the following essay, Joyce surveys the critical reception to Wright's work, focusing on interpretations of his novel Native Son.
Critical Essay by Jerry H. Bryant
8,165 words, approx. 27 pages
In the following excerpt, Bryant discusses violence and racism in Richard Wright's Native Son, noting that the novel's protagonist, Bigger Thomas, is the first Black character in American literature to substitute his own value system for one given him by white society.
Critical Essay by Desmond Harding
4,070 words, approx. 14 pages
In the following essay, Harding investigates Wright's utilization of architectural determinism in his novel Native Son.
Critical Essay by James R. Giles
3,340 words, approx. 11 pages
[Only] two years after its publication, Wright dismissed Uncle Tom's Children as an overly sentimental, naive book. The evaluation seems to have remained unchallenged ever since. Yet it seems, pace the author, as shortsighted as the criticism that the book lacks unity. [The thematic progression in both] Uncle Tom's Children and Native Son is the same—from a spontaneous, fear-motivated reaction by a black character against "the white mountain" of racial hatred to a realizat...
Critical Essay by James A. Miller
3,183 words, approx. 11 pages
In the following essay, Miller argues that the concluding scene of Native Son illustrates Bigger's recovery of his voice, which “not only undermines the argument that Max functions as a spokesman for Wright's political views but also challenges the view that Bigger himself is inarticulate.”
Critical Essay by Warren French
2,566 words, approx. 9 pages
One would like to think that the recent flurry of interest in Richard Wright (I write in the unquiet spring of 1969) is not just a by-product of the fashionable enthusiasm for "Black American Literature," but rather an effort to render at last his due to a man praised too soon for the wrong reasons and too soon dismissed for more wrong reasons. One doubts, however, that this man who so much longed to be recognized as an individual would be freshly honored except as a racial symbol. In death as...
Critical Essay by Steven J. Rubin
1,745 words, approx. 6 pages
The early fiction of Richard Wright, comprised of short stories written in the thirties and culminating in Native Son (1940), is primarily an expression of personal outrage and frustration. Although Wright's literary heritage has been traced to the American Naturalists, recent readings of his works suggest that Wright was not as confined by that tradition as has generally been believed. Working within the framework of social protest, Wright probed other more metaphysical issues, which were later to b...
Critical Essay by Ronald Sanders
1,702 words, approx. 6 pages
[In] Native Son Wright almost succeeds in achieving the imaginative liberation he sought by writing it. The book eventually runs aground in the author's own intellectuality, a quality which, for the novel's sake, he had succeeded in suppressing both too well and not well enough. The first two-thirds of Native Son constitute one of the most exciting stretches of melodrama in American literature. (p. 33)
Critical Essay by Ralph Ellison
1,361 words, approx. 5 pages
[Why] is it so often true that when critics confront the American as Negro they suddenly drop their advanced critical armament and revert with an air of confident superiority to quite primitive modes of analysis? Why is it that sociology-oriented critics seem to rate literature so far below politics and ideology that they would rather kill a novel than modify their presumptions concerning a given reality which it seeks in its own terms to project? Finally, why is it that so many of those who would tell us t...
Critical Essay by Owen Brady
1,261 words, approx. 4 pages
Lawd Today, written during the 1930's but unpublished until 1963, portrays the unrelieved frustration and consequent violence of black American life—themes Wright developed more strikingly in his next and greater novel, Native Son. Lawd Today, however, is not merely a preliminary sketch for the later novel. Unlike Bigger Thomas, Jake Jackson, Lawd Today's protagonist, develops no revolutionary consciousness of himself or his social condition because he aspires to a distorted version of ...
Critical Essay by Granville Hicks
708 words, approx. 2 pages
[Lawd Today] is less powerful than either Native Son or Black Boy, but it has its own kind of interest. It is the story of one day in the life of Jake Jackson, a Negro post office clerk in Chicago. (p. 37)
Critical Essay by William Dunlea
571 words, approx. 2 pages
[The Long Dream is] a novel throbbing with the same racial traumas that have done much to compel for its author a large interracial audience ever since Native Son, the classic Negro novel of social protest. That book appeared in 1940, and, judging by his latest, Richard Wright is angrier than he was then. The color motif dominates all of Mr. Wright's novels to the extent that the social-historical context outweighs the literary. It is not only because The Long Dream is a more uneven work than the poi...
Critical Essay by Richard Gilman
320 words, approx. 1 pages
Richard Wright is dead now and I have no intention of belaboring his memory; but he was simply not a good writer, not even a competent one, and it might be useful to make a notation upon what the sources of his reputation were. I think it clear that he was one of those authors about whom circumstances gather to distill extraliterary excitement and interest, in his case of course the circumstance being the fact that he was Negro and the first of his race to write about what that meant, in full acceptance of ...
View More Articles on Native Son