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The Politics of Richard WrightPerspectives on Resistance$
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Jane Anna Gordon and Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813175164

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813175164.001.0001

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Alternative Readings of Bigger Thomas

Alternative Readings of Bigger Thomas

Chapter:
(p.64) 4 Alternative Readings of Bigger Thomas
Source:
The Politics of Richard Wright
Author(s):

Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813175164.003.0005

Bigger Thomas, one of Richard Wright’s most memorable and distinctive fictional creations, has been interpreted in vastly different ways. This is partly because readers bring to Native Son different sets of beliefs about US capitalism, about the psychology of US racism, about the spiritual resources of black communities, and about the commitments and priorities of the United States government. This chapter, by Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh, compares how Irving Howe, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright interpreted Bigger’s story. The comparison reminds us of the variety of political projects to which the story can be put to use, and the possible futures for the United States—from working-class fascism, to state-led progressivism, to black communalism, to interracial fantasies and nightmares—that Bigger’s tale can illuminate.

Keywords:   Richard Wright, Bigger Thomas, Irving Howe, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, American racism

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