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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.66, No.1, 131 ~ 152, 2020
Raced Body and Raced Space in Richard Wright’s Native Son
Mi Ok Sa
Scholarship on Richard Wright’s Native Son has accepted the work differently. Some critics such as Irving Howe have read the novel as the reflection of Wright’s personal feelings. However, others have interpreted the novel as the warning of the devastating effects of racism. Focusing on the latter position, I point out one important aspect of the novel. That is, Wright shows whiteness through presenting the interconnection of space and race construction during the 1930s. Although racialized space set by Jim Crow laws was very pivotal in sustaining the racial hierarchy in the South at that time, it was formed in the North as well through different ways. That is, unlike the South, the North constructed racialized space customarily via racially restrictive covenants. What is remarkable is that Wright uncovers that whiteness created racialized space de facto in the North, which ultimately demonstrates that racialized space for white power and privilege was practiced during the Jim Crow era both in the North and in the South. In addition, through Bigger Wright portrays black subjectivity realistically facing the racial oppression in the raced space. Finally, I demonstrate that the novel shows that space is not just a physical place; a human body can be read as space. In sum, I demonstrate that Wright shows that racialized space was not confined to the South; it was a nation-wide phenomenon during the Jim Crow period; for whites, racialized space is not only for economic profits but also for the protection of white identity.
Key Words
Richard Wright, Native Son, whiteness, racialized space, racially restrictive covenants
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