Jim Crow Reality

The Long Dream by Richard Wright

The Long Dream, like many of Wright’s novels, details with painfully accurate detail the experience of life in the Jim Crow (1940s/50s) South.  The reader learns from a hihgly reliable and accurate source not only the nature of the experience, but also an analysis of its effects.  Richard Wright captures this essence better than any other writer I have yet encountered.  Themes of fight vs. flight and survival are pivotal in this novel.  The reader witnesses the effects of both and the reasons behind the characters’ decisions to opt for one over the other.  Ultimately, Wright tells us that conditions in this time were such that in order to survive not only physically, but emotionally, flight is the only option.  Certainly Fish could have eked out a survival in Clintonville, but robbed of his humanity by the fear instilled by the whites (as evidenced in the dog/car scene in which Fish can humanely murder a dog for its own good but cannot alert a potentially white passerby rescue a white man from imminent death), his survival would be meaningless.

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