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Richard Wright’s “Big Black Good Man” Essay


The verbal structure of a text should always be given great attention since it reveals not only the lexical and stylistic capabilities of language, but it also allows readers to draw conclusions about the intentions of the author and helps them to understand the thoughts of characters better. Importantly, some literary devices can be taken apart and examined easily, while some of them affect the reader’s comprehension or analysis indirectly. The purpose of this paper is to analyze how the literary device of point of view is utilized in Richard Wright’s short story entitled “Big Black Good Man”.

Use of Literary Device

First of all, it is essential to mention that this short story has a third-person narrator (Scott 49). The setting is revealed to the reader from the standpoint of Olaf Jenson, who is one of the story’s main protagonists. Notably, Jim is another crucial character in the story; however, the narrator remains uninvolved in terms of Jim’s thoughts. Therefore, the use of point of view as a literary device enables the reader to understand and analyze the thought process of one person, Olaf, while remaining unaware of the intentions of Jim.

The man’s fear arises with Jim’s “deliberate movement of his gorillalike arms, he lifted his mammoth hands to Olaf’s throat” (Kirszner and Mandell 244). Interestingly, Olaf cannot comprehend Jim’s wishes or intentions and can only guess what he means by committing these actions. At this point, it is important to stress the fact that the literary device allows the reader to make his or her own personal assumptions and form an opinion based on the individual judgment and thoughts of Olaf. In addition, this form of narration enables the reader to observe the setting through Olaf’s eyes, using his thoughts to influence the reader’s personal position.

The use of third-person narration in this short story contributes greatly to the development of tension throughout the reading. On the one hand, the reader faces the terror that the main hero has when meeting and dealing with Jim, despite the fact that this feeling turns out to be groundless and ambiguous. In addition, the narrator highlights that Olaf is not racially or nationally prejudiced and always welcomes men of various backgrounds. Nevertheless, Olaf refers to the visitor as a “black beast” (Kirszner and Mandell 244).

Therefore, the reader’s attitude to Jim can be formed based on Olaf’s feelings and emotions, while Jim’s intentions are not specified directly through his thinking. On the other hand, the reader must also rely on his or her individual background, and this comprehension can either coincide or conflict with Olaf’s experience. It can be stated that the use of point of view as a literary device attempts to resolve the strain between the two characters as well as between Olaf and the reader (Kvanvig 11). The final revelation occurs only after Jim speaks openly and explains his underlying intentions himself.

Conclusion

Overall, it can be concluded that the third-person narration of “Big Black Good Man” challenges the reader to question his or her justifications for forming certain attitudes. Looking at the setting through Olaf’s eyes and being unaware of Jim’s intentions, the reader has to confront the heroes and their personal perceptions. In this way, point of view is a powerful literary device that creates growing tension, which would have been impossible if Jim’s thoughts had been revealed directly and the reader had not been able to question him or herself and the way attitudes can be wrongfully formed in the context of uncertainty.

Works Cited

Kirszner, Laurie, and Stephen Mandell. Portable Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. 9th ed., Cengage Learning, 2015.

Kvanvig, Jonathan. Rationality and Reflection. OUP Oxford, 2014.

Scott, Jeremy. Creative Writing and Stylistics. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 6). Richard Wright's "Big Black Good Man". Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/richard-wrights-big-black-good-man/

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"Richard Wright's "Big Black Good Man"." IvyPanda, 6 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/richard-wrights-big-black-good-man/.

1. IvyPanda. "Richard Wright's "Big Black Good Man"." September 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/richard-wrights-big-black-good-man/.


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IvyPanda. "Richard Wright's "Big Black Good Man"." September 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/richard-wrights-big-black-good-man/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Richard Wright's "Big Black Good Man"." September 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/richard-wrights-big-black-good-man/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Richard Wright's "Big Black Good Man"'. 6 September.

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