Richard Wright and William Faulkner both examine the psychologies of excluded members of society.

1500 WordsApr 23, 20196 Pages
Richard Wright and William Faulkner both examine the psychologies of excluded members of society. While in Native Son, Wright studies someone oppressed and downtrodden beneath society, Faulkner looks at a family of outsiders cast far away from a common community in As I Lay Dying. For both, a central question becomes the function of their characters’ minds in relation to one another, and to reality. Through different approaches, both Wright and Faulkner conduct modernist explorations of the social outcast’s interiority. To accomplish this, each author’s narrative voice traverses the gradient from realism to experimental fragmentation, Wright constructing a vertical consciousness, articulate and omniscient regarding Bigger’s psychological…show more content…
This gap between what Bigger understands about himself and what the narrative voice can comprehend creates dramatic irony, especially when Bigger is confronted with Jan and Mary’s inexplicably friendly behavior. Wright’s descriptions of Jan and Mary make their good intentions clear to all but Bigger, and therefore sets up an unequal relationship between Bigger and the reader. He is now at the mercy not only of his own impulses, his employer’s wishes, and the law of white society, but also of Wright and his audience. The vertical consciousness that allows us to see so clearly what Bigger cannot, supports the deterministic trap that Wright has set for him. His environment has saddled him with unsatisfied urges, and now Wright has made him the victim of chance. In Mary’s claim that she wants to see how black people live in Chicago, Bigger experiences the “deep sense of exclusion” that Wright describes in How Bigger Was Born (518). Then, in seeing Mary’s white robed mother at her bedroom door, he encounters the corresponding “feeling of looking at things with a painful and unwarrantable nakedness,” the understanding of his total vulnerability, which forces him to kill Mary (518). His fate is sealed. With this dramatic irony, produced by a kind of vertical consciousness, Wright has proven to what extent the black man’s agency, his interiority, is “warped” by external forces and placed in

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