Big Black Good Man Themes

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"Big Black Good Man" is shot through with ambiguity. Wright gives clues to the attitudes and intentions of Olaf and Jim, but some of these clues are contradictory so that, all in all, they lead to question marks in readers' minds. The narrator reports that Olaf is not racially prejudiced and provides some evidence to support this statement: Olaf regularly provides rooms at the hotel for men of all races. Yet Olaf's negative reaction to Jim is extreme and unrelenting, and the terms that the narrator, speaking from Olaf's point of view, uses to describe Jim are clearly racist. Throughout the story Jim is referred to as a "black beast" with animal qualities—"gorillalike arms" and "mammoth hands." Further, Olaf feels that if Jim's skin were brown rather than black, Jim would not convey the same horror.

Jim is equally ambiguous. Most of his actions toward Olaf speak...

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This section contains 540 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Big Black Good Man Study Guide
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Short Stories for Students
Big Black Good Man from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.