Friday, March 17, 2023

Cultural Geo-tagging Richard Wright’s short stories

By Kenton Rambsy

With regards to cultural geo-tagging, Richard Wright’s stories largely revolve around violent and deadly interactions. Black and white homegrown characters take center stage when engaging in confrontations with each other in southern settings. Interracial conflicts are common in his stories and usually result in a horrific death. Wright showed the explosive eruptions that could occur when racial boundaries are crossed in the South.

The Deep South and troubled interactions between white people and Black people figure prominently in Wright’s settings. Given his own background, readers can assume that Wright’s stories were inspired by his memories of the South and impressions of southern racism. Wright’s development undoubtedly stems from his harrowing experiences as a boy growing up in the Jim Crow South.

Scholarly articles on Wright’s short stories have highlighted the deadly conflicts that occur between Black and white characters. But perhaps we have not given enough attention to Wright’s vivid depictions of rural landscapes, especially in his short fiction.

His renderings of southern landscapes are notable, especially since he is so often presented as an urban writer based on Native Son. He uses rural landscapes as the backdrop in stories that are frequently anthologized, while also depicting the dangers associated with these settings. His stories incorporate descriptions of open fields, wooded areas, ponds, and front yards, demonstrating his awareness of rustic scenery.

Wright also utilizes AAVE as a way of identifying or geo-tagging the distinct cultural and social location of his southern characters. Wright’s stories depart from Chesnutt’s and Hurston’s works, however, as he presents the inner thoughts of his characters.

This entry is part of a series--A Notebook on The Geographies of African American Short Stories.

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