Richard Wright's Native Son

A Routledge Study Guide

By Andrew Warnes

© 2004 – Routledge

176 pages

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e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) is one of the most violent and revolutionary works in the American canon. Controversial and compelling, its account of crime and racism remain the source of profound disagreement both within African-American culture and throughout the world.

This guide to Wright's provocative novel offers:

  • an accessible introduction to the text and contexts of Native Son
  • a critical history, surveying the many interpretations of the text from publication to the present
  • a selection of reprinted critical essays on Native Son, by James Baldwin, Hazel Rowley, Antony Dawahare, Claire Eby and James Smethurst, providing a range of perspectives on the novel and extending the coverage of key critical approaches identified in the survey section
  • a chronology to help place the novel in its historical context
  • suggestions for further reading.

Part of the Routledge Guides to Literature series, this volume is essential reading for all those beginning detailed study of Native Son and seeking not only a guide to the novel, but a way through the wealth of contextual and critical material that surrounds Wright's text.

Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Texts and Contexts Richard Wright: A Brief Biography. The Voices of Native Son. The Dostoevskian Voice. The Transplantation of the Blues. Bigger’s Vernacular Voice. Social Determinism: An Anti-American Accent? Bigger: Silenced by Whiteness? Chronology Part 2: Critical History First Responses: James Baldwin. First Responses: Ralph Ellison and Irving Howe. Feminist Readings. The Black Atlantic and Beyond Part 3: Critical Readings Many Thousands Gone James Baldwin (1951) The Shadow of the White Woman: Richard Wright and the Book-of-the-Month Club Hazel Rowley(1999) From No Man's Land to Mother-Land: Emasculation and Nationalism in Richard Wright's Depression Era Urban Novels Anthony Dawahare (1999) Slouching toward Beastliness: Richard Wright's Anatomy of Thomas Dixon Clare Eby (2001) Invented by Horror: The Gothic and African American Literary Ideology in Native Son James Smethurst (2001) Part 4: Web Resources and Further Reading

About the Author

Andrew Warnes is a lecturer in American literature at the University of Leeds. He has published on the novels of Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison.

About the Series

Routledge Guides to Literature

Routledge Guides to Literature are clear introductions to authors and texts most frequently studied by undergraduate students of literature. Each book explores texts, contexts and criticism, highlighting the critical views and contextual factors that students must consider in advanced studies of literary works.
Each guide presents a variety of approaches and interpretations, encouraging readers to think critically about 'standard' views and to make independent readings of literary texts. Alongside general guides to texts and authors, the series includes 'sourcebooks', which incorporate extracts from key contextual and critical materials as well as annotated passages from the primary text.
Some books in this series were originally published in the Routledge Literary Sourcebook series, edited by Duncan Wu, or the Complete Critical Guide to English Literature series, edited by Richard Bradford and Jan Jedrzjewski.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LIT000000
LITERARY CRITICISM / General
LIT004020
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General
LIT004040
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / African American
LIT004080
LITERARY CRITICISM / Canadian