The Racial Problem in the Works of Richard Wright and James Baldwin

The Racial Problem in the Works of Richard Wright and James Baldwin

The Racial Problem in the Works of Richard Wright and James Baldwin

The Racial Problem in the Works of Richard Wright and James Baldwin


Both writers reflect the profound desire of black Americans to be recognized as first-class citizens: Wright aroused white America's conscience, Baldwin made that conscience experience guilt.


The result of lengthy and deep thought about the plight of blacks in the United States, this academic study by a Frenchman, who has spent much time in North America and who has settled there, contains one thesis: the complementary relationship between Richard Wright and James Baldwin.

Based on a very wide knowledge of early or recently published works on the racial question (as the extensive bibliography attests) this book, constructed according to a rigorous plan of traditional structure, relies on biographical elements and on textual analysis to retrace, meticulously and reliably, the careers of two American writers who deeply influenced their era. This analytical work covers both the literary works and the political and philosophical essays of the two men, thus combining in the same undertaking the attempt at aesthetic dramatization of the racial problem and the political involvement of the authors. Pragmatic in his approach, JeanFrançois Gounard has recourse to the history of ideas and social questions, to literary history, to psychology, to basic psychoanalytical sketches in order to carry out his work successfully. The two monographs, constructed on the same pattern, echo each other in a dialectic movement which emphasizes the author's opinions on the racial situation. For Jean-François Gounard, Richard Wright's violent revolt is counterbalanced by James Baldwin's words of love and peace. The differences between the two authors are clearly delineated, both from the literary and the human angle.

In his conclusion, the author expresses the profound wish that the spokesmen of the new revolt such as LeRoi Jones will not get the upper hand, and that white and black children will have peace, which may contribute to bringing social integration into primary and secondary schools. This generous remark is stamped with the seal of the preoccupations and the experience of the early 1970s. The whole book raises questions to which the changes of these last few years seem not to have given any definitive and clearly hopeful answers. The United States continues to bear the burden of the racial problem, even if the face of violence has changed. This is what makes reading the two great classics, Richard Wright and James Baldwin, still current.

Jean F. Béranger . . .

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