by Joyce Ann Joyce
University of Iowa Press, 1991
Cloth: 978-0-87745-148-8 | eISBN: 978-1-58729-121-0 | Paper: 978-0-87745-320-8
Library of Congress Classification PS3545.R815N34 1986
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.52

In this first full-length study of Native Son, Joyce Ann Joyce provides a stylistic and thematic reading of one of the most important works of Black American literature, demonstrating how Wright's exquisite use of language merges with his subject to create an American tragedy.

Because many scholars have approached the novel from naturalistic and existential perspectives, Joyce devotes her first chapter to a discussion of the novel's critical history. She compares previous criticism to her own perspective of the novel as tragedy, describing the features shared by each as well as their points of demarcation.

In the following chapters, Joyce explores the setting and structure of Native Son, its characterization and point of view, stylistic technique, and thematic unity. As she explores Wright's technique, she illuminates the ironies and interlocking relationships which embody the salient metaphors and images in the novel. In doing so, she illustrates how each detail of language composes the pattern that makes Native Son a tragedy.

In the same way that traditional critical readings of Native Son have impeded fresh insights into the novel, criticism based on biographical perspectives has resulted in numerous misconceptions about Wright's works. Richard Wright's Art of Tragedy rectifies these misconceptions by shifting the critical emphasis to the artistic vision and masterful crafting of Wright's major work. With this significant volume, students and teachers can discern the stylistic creativity that makes Native Son not only a tragedy but a work of art.