Comparing the Innocent Criminal in Black Boy, Uncle Tom's Children, Native Son, and Outsider

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The Innocent Criminal in Black Boy, Uncle Tom's Children, Native Son, and The Outsider

"It is probably a mere accident that I never killed," Richard Wright commented offhandedly in an interview with Robert Moss (596). After reading several of Wright's works, one can easily understand what Wright means by this statement. In his books Black Boy, Uncle Tom's Children, Native Son, and The Outsider, Wright suggests that white society has transformed black people into criminals. The source of this claim comes from Wright's personal experiences as a Negro in the Deep South. Whether pushed to crime from necessity or for personal fulfillment and self-realization, the protagonists of Wright's works are innocent criminals; they know
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While sitting with his family on the porch, Wright "piped up and had [his] say" (133), even though he had no right to speak without permission. As his grandmother lunges toward him, Wright scrambles and avoids a slap; as a result, his grandmother falls down the stairs from her own momentum. Wright is forced to feel guilty as his family blames him for Granny's injury. As he says in Black Boy:

Had I done right or had I done wrong ? If I had held still and let Granny slap me, she would not have fallen. But was it not natural to dodge a blow ? (134)

Wright's Aunt Addie confronts him and they argue:

"You see what you've done to Granny," she said.

"I didn't touch her," I said. I had wanted to ask how Granny was, but my fear

made me forget that.

"You were trying to kill her," Aunt Addie said.

"I didn't touch Granny, and you know it!"

"You are evil. You bring nothing but trouble!"

"I was trying to dodge her. She was trying to hit me. I had done nothing

wrong...." (134)

Brutalized and misunderstood by both his family and his society, Wright developed personal characteristics that are reflected in his writing: rebelliousness, introversion, a quest for selfhood, a longing for stable and meaningful values, and an appetite for violence (Moss 596). As Wright struggles to escape this oppressive society, he resorts to petty crimes: selling
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