Richard Wright, in his novel, Native Son, favors short, simple,
blunt sentences that help maintain the quick narrative pace of the
novel, at least in the first two books. For example, consider the
following passage: "He licked his lips; he was thirsty. He looked
at his watch; it was ten past eight. He would go to the kitchen
and get a drink of water and then drive the car out of the garage.
" Wright's imagery is often brutal and elemental, as in his frequently
repeated references to fire and snow and Mary's bloody head.
Though the style is similar to that of much of the detective fiction
of Wright's day, some readers find it perfectly suited to a novel told
from the point of view of an uneducated youth, driven by
overpowering feelings of fear, shame, and hate. Even the novel's
cliches (stale or overused phrases or expressions like "...he had
his destiny in his grasp") may fit a central character who gets his
information about the larger world from the cliche-ridden mass media.
Wright worked within the literary tradition known as naturalism. The
naturalists wanted to compile social data in such a way as to give a
scientific explanation for their characters' behavior. But Wright goes
beyond merely presenting social data. At times Native Son seems more
like a nightmare than like social science. Note that Wright was also
attracted to the horror and detective stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
One of Wright's stated goals was to make readers "feel" the heat
of the Daltons' furnace and the cold of a Chicago winter. But he
also makes the cold and heat symbols of the external forces aligned
against Bigger and of the powerful emotions raging within him. Other
patterns of imagery that appear throughout the novel include...