Wright's South

"Southland was bad and mean But this North is hard and cold"

RICHARD WRIGHT is as much a son of Mississippi as is William Faulkner, yet many of his readers do not think of him as a southern writer. This is because of Native Son, which depicts black life in the ghettos of the North, or The Outsider, which is steeped in existential and ideological controversy, and because of social comments on continents other than America in Black Power, Pagan Spain, or The Color Curtain. Most readers, however, cannot escape associating Wright with the South because the tremendous impact of his autobiography, Black Boy, lies in his having managed to survive in Mississippi (i.e., one of the most destitute and racist parts of the United States) and finally leave it. Black Boy, implied that a black youth had to escape southern destitution and discrimination to become a writer, which, being black, he was not even supposed to attempt. As a result, Black Boy makes Wright a writer out of the South, not of it.

Wright liked to see himself as an individual who happened to be born in a poor black Natchez family and had to carve for himself not only his own identity through rebellion but seek a chosen place -- a place of freedom versus servitude, knowledge versus cultural void, action versus apathy. Also, he would cast himself in the persona of a man forever seeking a place where he could be more fully human, moving from Mississippi to Memphis, to Chicago, to New York, to Paris; visiting different parts of Europe, America, Africa, and Asia; and, for a while, joining the Gary Davis movement in order to be a "citizen of the world." At the close of a lecture in Paris, he once told a student: "You see, the differenee between the two of us is that I am completely free, I have no roots, whereas you are bound by European history and the tyranny of place." 1 Beyond the metaphorical opposition between myths of the New World and the Old, this was a defiant, perhaps heroic statement, yet literally not a believeable one. Like others of his generation, Wright was heir to the


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The World of Richard Wright


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 268

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?