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The Man Who lived Underground

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  • Pages: 8
  • Word count: 1963
  • Category: Racism

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One of the best ways to accomplish one thing is through literature, wherein the raw material of our separate journeys, our dreams, our nightmares, is transformed into works of the imagination. The role of literature in the school curriculum has always been defined in relation to language teaching. The goal then of teaching language was to study the literature of the target language (Duff and Maley, 1990). The question about the nature of literature came up again in the literary work of Richard Wright: The Man Who Lived Underground.

The critics and readers were wondering about the capacity of literary works to change our understanding of the world and give delectation at the same time. The American novelist, Raymond Chandler, thought that “the intensity of artistic performance makes a literary text literature.”  “That intensity may be a matter of style, situation, character, emotional tone, or idea, or half a dozen things.

It may also be a perfection of control over movement of a story similar to the control a great pitcher has over the ball,” (2001).  People forget most texts encountered daily because they lack this quality. For it must be remembered that not all written texts are literature, in the strict sense of the term. Literature is something more than stringing together of words and their production of meaning. It must possess that transformative power of words to awaken readers to something worth pondering, or emulating.

With that intensity, the text becomes art, for now it has permanence, that is, a consistent appeal; and profundity, that is, a universal value. It pleases and inspires in the level appropriate to the individual readers. It makes them aware of the human conditions that shape their environment, or convinces them to alter their view points about certain things. Consequently, readers respond to realities with renewed vigor and sincerity, a kind of “feel good effect” as signified by their gladness to be alive in spite of worldly turmoils and difficulties. This gives literature an ennobling quality, the foundation of its relevance and importance. The novel records human frailties and virtues in specific situations in a complete, unmistakable manner.

Richard Nathan Wright was born from an illiterate sharecropper and a school teacher, and the grandson of slaves. Even at young age he experienced the feeling of being separated in the society where your family class was identified. Wright was a member of a Communist Party. He was much identified as a southern rather than a modern American author. And because of this violent racism and racial discrimination had been his main theme in all of his works. When he moved to the North, he felt the same of dehumanizing racism but less physical.

Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Lived Underground,” was his own journey of escape from the United States where he was a black man. The main character in the story was bearing the person whom Wright was inspired to write the story. It was Fyodor Dostoyevsky. And has the initials of a fugitive slave who quested for freedom named, Frederick Douglas.

Wright was become pessimistic in the story because wherever he goes, the shadows of being black still haunting me from South to North. He was even killed for it was believed because of the French officials who were hunting him for writing novels against the White high profile people. He had believed that a person like him who had nothing has no place in on Earth where everybody was supposed t be had lived in the right way where there were no criticism for each of us were just one in the Glorious Heaven’s eyes.

It was said that “The Man Who Lived Underground” was Richard Wright’s best work for his works had a concrete philosophy and he himself was a novelist of ideas. His works intensified of the aesthetic distance, merely because it was from the author’s personal experience. The elements of fiction were very evident. Its theme where the idea was clearly seen from the story, the use of symbolism where everything in the story had represented, the tone of the author had used where he was very transparent and the mood that made him and the reason to come up with the works in same attitude where he projected his views in the society he lived in.

The title of the story speaks for itself; dark and pessimistic Literature speaks in many ways in any part of the world but all literature is a protest, where Wright silently protested through his writings of the issues in the White and the Blacks in its society. This is an epic journey similarly to Dante Alighieri’s: The Divine Comedy, from hell to purgatory and the last stop, in heaven. On the other hand, the story had his journey from heaven to hell (2001).

We recognize from the way they write their writing reveals their individual understanding of the subject and the manner in which they shape it through the craft of language. The story is from the writer’s personal experience in the South. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin it was said that indeed, “there was in the south of later days the great theme of slavery itself,” (2001).

The idea of coming up with the story was from a True Detective story entitled “The Crime Hollywood Couldn’t Believe” that was a series of mysterious crime thefts within the neighborhood (2001). The Man Who Lived Underground was literally to the deep South but figuratively to the invisible underworld of Southern black poverty.

The story was not really known to the public simply because the textbook edition was left out at The Library of America edition of Wrights major works. The physical intensity, fear, and violence were there. The story marked a low and pessimistic point in the philosophical props beneath his works. The manifestation of this story was the decision he had made to move in France.

His message in the story was not intentionally hidden for it was his own way of battling to the people who kept on discriminating them despite the fact they lived in just one country.

The story was a powerful critique of the subjectivistic and irrationalistic that modern art and philosophy had embraced to escape the alienating society. Modern realism and radical modernism was expected to be practiced in the story.

The United States is not caught up in poverty and not even in corruption as badly like the other countries, but it has inequities and social injustice. They seem to unable to break free from materialism, global militarism, and racism. In the most developed of nations had caused the rebels to fight.

Racism is an idea that race is the major determinant of human rights and capacities and those racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular group. It refers to relationships in which one group supposedly distinguished b physical difference has more power.

It is rampant in the literature, the racial segregation and discrimination. There were many stories dealt with pain and suffering because of racism. Through writing they had expressed of how they really feel because their voices were not heard.

Wright had pointed out the suffering of a segregated person through the protagonist of the story when the latter had gone to the underworld separated from the real world where the real people were living. Fred Daniels’s descent into an underground sewer to blackness to evade the police, who had tortured him into confessing to a murder he did not commit, brings to his consciousness the wretchedness an African American endures as the “other” in a repressive cultural context. The subconsciousness that he discovers underground creates the masks and other evasive forms that African Americas devise in a racist context to achieve self-expression, freedom, and self-fulfillment. He had found of what was must be his life’s journey underground and had taken back there for him to have full of hope in the future.

The psychology of the suffering writer continues to be a popular theme, in spite of great global economic, social, and moral changes. The paradox simply increases our curiosity about how the imagination reacts to the negative and critical elements that attack the human personality and affect literary production. The English Romanticists, of course, started it all, with their firm belief that, indeed, misfortune and creativity go together. The unfortunate writer laboring in isolation was its universal pictograph, highlighted in Wright’s works.

Now, some two centuries after, Randy Kennedy of The New York Times asks whether “we still have a deep-seated need to believe in the idea of the tortured artist, to think that the only enduring ones,” (2007). Need is the operative here, for it assumes that our aesthetic delectation depends as much on the character of the creators as on the work they make.

The soul’s punishment-for instance, diseases, parental shame, drug addiction, physical deformity, bankruptcy, depression, all kinds of fear and mania – in some mysterious ways finds it connection with the imaginations system, initiates alterations in the writer’s view of the human condition, and configured the appropriate language. The romantic imagery is revived and strengthened in the reader’s consciousness, even giving rise to the formula – the greater suffering, the greater the literary quality. Just like Van Gogh asserted this in his own case when he said, “The more I am spent ill, a broken pitcher, so much more am I an artist,” (2007) In the case of writers, chronic pain and mental turbulence haunted the careers of some poet like Wright.

In the eyes of ordinary people, suffering confers on the writers a supernormal quality, asking them capable of quality production. This again assumes that the torture elevates the writers, and endows their efforts with pleasing nobility. Ordinary people cannot produce great literature.

“People don’t want to believe that someone like them could just sit down at a typewriter or a desk and create something great or timeless. It’s got to be the product of a lot misery and angst, the poet Patricia Hampl wrote. This links furthermore with the classic idealism that art in its highest form is spiritual, removed from the concerns of daily life. Because life, as Pablo Picasso averred, “is a very bad novel,” it has to be worked through the writers’ suffering into something much more meaningful, much more valuable. A life lived and relived, then emitting intensity and beauty only achievable by a journey through pain.

It also seems that the unhappy writers are the enduring writers. Hampered or limited by their suffering, literature becomes their focus and salvation, forcing them to give their best every moment of creation. Writing becomes their medicine, their way of escape, and the catalyst for their imagination.

They draw from some mental physic wellspring for aesthetic excellence and linguistic skill, shaping a novel, for instance, that may as well be either own story reconstructed with a more enjoyable plot. Happy people would hardly seek this kind of labor when many forms of entertainment are within their reach. They will not be inclined to high creativity because they will not demand a flight from their comfortable existence.

Works Cited:

Cappetti, Carla. Black Orpheus: Richard Wright’s

            “The Man Who Lived Underground.”(Critical Essay).

  1. MELUS. 24 Nov. 2007 <http:www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-             86063227.html>.

Gounardoo, Jean-Francois. The Racial Problem in the Works

            of Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Wesport, Connecticut London:

            Greenwood Press. 1992.

Woodberry, George Edward. Appreciation of Literature and American in Literature.

            New York: Hardcourt, Brace and Company. 1921. pp.75.

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