The Art of Richard Wright

By Edward Margolies | Go to book overview
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8
The Existential Freud The Outsider; Savage Holiday

Thirteen years after the publication of Native Son Wright reexamined the problem of the ethical criminal in the role of Cross Damon, the protagonist of his novel, The Outsider. 1 Cross is in some respects an intellectualized Bigger; although he has read Heidegger, Jaspers, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzche, Husserl, and Dostoevsky, his psychology is essentially Bigger's. Violence gives Cross a sense of meaning, a sense of freedom in a world that is otherwise hostile or chaotic. After committing two "senseless" murders Cross experiences fulfillment. "The universe seemed to be rushing at him with all its totality. He was anchored once again in life, in the flow of things; the world glowed with an intensity so sharp it made his body ache." 2

In this novel too, Wright refocuses his thoughts on the revolutionism of the Marxist Communist and that of the metaphysical rebel. Unlike Native Son, however, the differences between the two are not nearly so contradictory. Early in the novel Cross finds himself in conflict with the Communist Party -- not because he is so different from other Communists, but because he is so much like them. The Communists, he discovers, use idealism and ideology to mask their real intentions -- their will, their desire for power. For Cross, too, power is an end in itself -- it is the basic ingredient of human nature; it is fundamentally a kind of libidinal assertion that often conceals itself in altruistic motives

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