The Fall from Light to Darkness: Spiritual Impoverishment and the Deadening of the Soul in Richard Wright's Native Son
A preacher enters the cell of a young man condemned by all before the trial has even begun, and begins powerfully exhorting the young man to give himself to the Lord Jesus and be redeemed. And yet this young man, standing at the very edge of death, cannot bring himself to find salvation in the religion offered to him, cannot find hope in the cross laid round his neck. Bigger Thomas, the fallen protagonist of Richard Wright's Native Son, has spent a lifetime in the spiritually deadening climate of 1930s Chicago, and for him religion offers very little. The nihilism pervasive in black life that has so encrusted his soul has been an ever-growing force through the years, first noted in W.E.B. DuBois' writings, and, many decades later, powerfully argued for in Cornel West's Race Matters. All three authors are aware of the power that black religious life once held; to uplift the spirit, to enable the individual to find love, self-worth, and personal dignity in a world that sought to deprive them of each. All three authors are also aware of the growing spiritual impoverishment that has struck black American life, contributing in no small part to the conditions so poignantly portrayed in Native Son.
The importance of spiritual...
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