Thursday, January 23, 2020

Essay --

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 world, and Faulkner accessing a horizontal one, mostly illustrating the Bundren’s surface thoughts and emotions. In Native Son, Wright’s principally naturalistic style, momentarily interrupted by rebellious points of fragmented, modernist language, reflects in form Bigger’s overwhelming repression throughout the novel and his liberating moments of agency. The naturalism contributes to a narrative voice that can articulate Bigger’s fears, impulses, and desires with much greater sophistication than Bigger himself is capable of. This allows Wright to explore Bigger’s consciousness in a vertical manner, omnisciently understanding emotional mechanisms not apparent to Bigger. It is as though we are looking narrowly down at Bigger, and through him. While the narrative voice sees that Bigger’s violent mood swings are the result of his frustrated potential in a segregated society, Bigger only knows these moods as â€Å"the rhythms of his life... ebbing and flowing from the tug of a far-away, invisible force† (... ...ngs their interior lives into such vivid relief that it suggests inadequate or meaningless external existences. For the Bundren’s, such vivid interiors, without constrictions, seem to suffer from lack of compression, while for Bigger, extreme downward pressure on his psyche makes him a volatile character. By exploring this outcast’s interiority through a vertical consciousness, Wright has proven the dangerous lack of agency a young black man has, in segregated Chicago, even over his own actions. Faulkner, by exploring the Bundren’s interior life through a horizontal consciousness, has proven their lack of agency in a different way. They have control over their actions, but their actions, overshadowed, seem to have no affects. By either being oppressed or ignored, both groups of people have damaged consciousnesses, in which they nevertheless discover some relief.

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