Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lawd Today!

Lawd Today! is a novel constructed with a high level of sophistication, but the dialogue is so casual and gramatically incorrect. In this technique, Richard Wright is making a sharp social commentary, one that does not reveal itself to the reader at the outset. Wright develops his main character, Jake, to be a hopelessly incompetent, pitiful figure. Through the course of the novel the reader becomes increasingly frustrated with Jake's level of stupidity, the simple fact that he cannot recognize why bad things happen to him. After meeting with his bosses at the post office because of his wife's complaints of domestic abuse, Jake views his lax punishment as a phenomenon of his own doing. His first reaction is to go home and give his wife a good beating for her actions... precisely the act that put his job in jeopardy in the first place.
Wright makes Jake such a despicable character because he is making a portrayal of the stereotypical black man, at least in the eyes of the white community. In doing so, he proves that he recognizes this image and refutes it. He, as a black writer, disproves the theory that all black men are like Jake. His inclusion of perfectly crafted English language among all the slang reinforces his disgust at the american impression of african american community.


Erin Sells said...

I think part of Wright's purpose in creating despicable black characters is to point out the fact that just as not all black men are like Jake, not all black men are upstanding citizens either--because they're human, not tokens. But he's also trying to identify the reasons some black men are like Jake--the systems of racial oppression that turn him into a pathetic monster.

Adam Stoller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Stoller said...

While you both make interesting points, I think Wright wrote the novel with a completely different intention. He wrote the novel as a challenge to the black reader to rise above the stereotypes and recognize his own agency.

Colin, I don't see how Wright "refutes" the negative image of the Black community.

And Professor Sells, I think crediting "the systems of racial oppression" as responsible for Jake's problems misses one of the underlying themes in the novel: self sabotage. When Jake awaits the verdict deciding whether he will keep or loose his job, a black man sits on the opposite side of the table. Each man is in his respective position not because of the coercive nature of society, but rather because of the individual decisions they have made.