“He looked into the furnace; her clothes were ablaze and smoke was filling the interior so that he could scarcely see. The draft roared upward, droning in his ears.” Native Son, Richard Wright 1940
Black! This book smacks you in the face with its blackness and never lets up. I remember being struck by the prejudice and bleakness in this world when I first read it. But reading now, I get the sense of the inevitability of the happenings of Bigger’s life. There is little that he can do to escape his role in this situation. I painted Bigger shutting out the world. Shutting out his blackness. Living with his mask. But surrounded by the flames. Flames of the furnace where he shoved Mary’s body, flames of the society hunting for the “black ape,” the burning cross of Christ – no the burning cross of the KKK. Easier to retreat from all this madness. Reading the anger and frustration in this book makes me wish that Wright had been around long enough to see Obama elected as our first black president. It wouldn’t have changed his background experiences but maybe his vision for the future.