Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Moral Fiber

Wright’s depicts Jack as an overbearing, contentious, and boorish individual that is struggling to survive in the midst of depression and poverty. His inflexible belief that he always is right is reflected in his sudden outbursts of rage resulting from anything that makes him uncomfortable. This is evident when he continues to “egg” Lily so that he would be “impelled to slap her” (15). Jack’s patriarchal complex and need to show his supremacy is further expressed when he berates Lily for his lost razor, and even upon the realization that he misplaced it in the first place, repeatedly calls her a “deaf, dumb bitch” and accuses her of cheating on him (22).

Jack’s ignorance towards life, society, and religion is revealed through his vacillating stance on these issues. This is specifically evident in his views concerning God.

Jack: “Gawd’s hooey! It’s a gyp game, that’s all!”
Lily: “You blaspheming Gawd!”
Jack: “So what?” (31)

It was interesting to follow and compare what Jack said to Lily in the kitchen with the fearsome four’s discussion and apparent veneration of God in the squirrel cage:

“...His wonders to perform…”
“…and Gawd rewarded ‘em”
“You’ll get your reward if you do right.”
“Gawd sees to that. He’s done figgered out all kind of ways to reward folks”
“And He can punish you, too”
…”Yeah, he evens up everything.”(165-167)

Jack’s inconsistent character is conveyed through his sycophantic actions when he appears before the board and barely escapes with his job, and his open disregard for authority as he openly disdains the floor manager who as a result demerits Jack.

Through the first two sections, it is hard to sympathize with Jack. Although Jack is overwhelmed with debt and is struggling to make a living, his arrogance and self-righteous disposition makes him appear antagonistic, and just unlikable. It is interesting that Wright would choose to depict his main character in such a negative light, despite his adherence to realism.

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

(Note: the character's name is "Jake" not "Jack.")

Why would Wright's dedication to the project of realism conflict with his depiction of an unattractive character? Surely we all know that there are plenty of people in the world who are easy enough to dislike!

One of Wright's reasons for depicting African-American's in less-than-attractive lights is because black people--just like people of every other skin color!--are sometimes greedy, stupid, ignorant, and violent. His creation of characters like Jake in 'Lawd Today!' and Bigger Thomas in 'Native Son' is a deliberate counter to dominant depictions of African-Americans as pure, good, and simple ('Uncle Toms'). Flat, uncomplicated, and uniformly good African-American characters are as essentialist, racist, and discriminatory as those of African-Americans as criminal, sex-crazed, and stupid. Wright's Bigger and Jake are products of their oppressive and racist social conditions and Wright doesn't back down from depicting them as such.