The Man Who Lived Underground
Disparaging Masculinities: Fred’s Doom and Jesse’s Reaffirmation College
James Baldwin and Richard Wright focus most of their works on the suffering of blacks in opposition to the overwhelming and repressive nature of racism that contorts the very existence of black bodies, specifically men. Wright and Baldwin assert that there are various approaches to addressing racism and the structure of black narratives, as is made evident by Baldwin’s use of a white male protagonist and Wright’s use of a protagonist who lives underground. Both these writers suggest that identity is an entity that men, in particular, desire in order to both proclaim their roles as masculine and to proclaim their roles as human or they cease to maintain their power and become subhuman bodies. Richard Wright’s The Man Who Lived Underground and James Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man represent two opposing forms of masculinity as they exist in black and white culture, however, Jesse and Fred both enter an oppressive darkness that consumes their identities and forces them to address their own roles in society or face imminent death.
Baldwin and Wright emphasize the importance of naming in their works as it generates a tangible form of existence and significance for both men in the short stories. Fred Daniels is presumably a reference...
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