Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

Qiana J. Whitted


This thesis examines the influence hegemonic forces of white oppression have on the psyches of the protagonists of Richard Wright's novels and stories. It argues these male characters are so degraded and perverted by their environments that they adopt the mindsets and beliefs of the structures designed to oppress them. They prefer the strength and agency of these structures, and so internalize and reproduce them. This causes psychological strain in the characters, a double consciousness of being a part of the dominant hegemony while never being embraced by it. The psychological dissonance then expresses itself in violence, reification, or fetishization of women. In "Long Black Song," the main character's desire to participate and excel in a white economy results in his reification of his wife and his lynching once he realizes the impossibility of fulfilling his ambitions. In Native Son, Bigger Thomas learns from an oppressive environment to see his blackness as a disability. In order to cope with this, he uses violence against women to displace his perceived disability. In The Long Dream, the main character learns to identify with a castrated corpse which creates an obsession with white women that threatens his life. Despite his efforts to escape the South, he retains the psychological scars it inflicted on him.