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Julian Meynell's Books

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Wright' Native Son

Native Son - Richard   Wright

I had for reasons that are unclear to me, put off reading Native Son.  I'm sorry that I did that because it is a brilliant novel.  The main character of Bigger Thomas, is brilliantly drawn and it is a psychological masterpiece.  The book shows how fear and ignorance brought about by race prejudice drives him to commit almost meaningless crimes and leads to a life devoid of purpose, other than to mae the situation worse.  The novel is amazingly emphatetic, not just for Bigger, but als the white characters, which he draws sharply.

Wright was a communist, and roots American racism where it should be, in the context of class issues.  I decided to read this book before Ferguson and all the related happenings, but one could not help feeling when reading it that it is just as relevant today, if not more so than in the era in which it was written.  It really is a psychological masterpiece.

The end court room scenes are worse than the rest of the book.  A lot of people will object to their didactic nature.  I think there is nothing wrong with novels with argumentative passages, but here it is not that well done.  The transition is abrupt and those kinds of things don't go on in court rooms, although I accept Wright's argument in almost its entirety and he nails the cause of African-American crime.

Over all, despite its flaws, a masterpiece.  The book is really a book in the transgressive tradition and is related to works like Crime and Punishment.  First rate.