Richard Wright has to be by far one of my favorite writers, for many reasons. I particularly admire how, through his writing, he captures the African American experience by bringing out notions of political factors, social conditions and of course that he is not afraid to ‘take it there’. I often find myself in awe of the suspense in his writing, always keeping in mind that there will be an inevitable bad ending.
Living during the Jim Crow era, it was a struggle for blacks to live a free life while simultaneously fighting white oppression. Wright shows that these forces, like white oppression, in which blacks are presented with from birth, conspire to ultimately aid in their doom- meaning they are doomed from birth. No matter what one does, it is already predetermined by natural forces to have an impending doom. A common theme that arises across his writing is the idea of naturalism, which focuses on humans and the relationship they have with their environment. Naturalism is a concept found both in philosophy and literature. In literature, naturalism is “a literary style combining a deterministic view of human nature and a nonidealistic, detailed observation of events.” This applies to all the lives of African Americans Wright writes about. Naturalism shows that causal factors encourage blacks to make the decisions they do, almost as if they have no choice. We see an example of this in Big Boy Leaves Home in the book Uncle Tom’s Children, as Big Boy is forced to kill Jim Harvey in a life or death altercation. If Big Boy had not done what he did, he would not have been alive to escape his childhood in the South. In addition, Big Boy’s family and community network had to make the decision to send Big Boy to Chicago to escape the mob from lynching him, as they had no other choice. Naturalism leads us to assume that it was instinctive of the boys to think about their nakedness, run for their clothes, kill in order to survive and thus save themselves from being lynched. All of their actions were second nature to them.
Another aspect of naturalism focuses on how one finds meaning in their lives despite the negative conditions. Although doubtful, Big Boy was able to see the meaning of his life, he came to a sort of self-awareness through his struggles. Overnight, Big Boy went from innocent childhood to mature into an adult who had to fend and fight for his freedom from white oppression. It is significant for him to gain this self-awareness because he was no longer sheltered by his innocent ways; he understood the full depth of life under Jim Crow and how to survive and fight it. Naturalism puts into perspective the aspects of African American experience through literature that one may not think about. Such aspects are how one acts in social situations, how one speaks to white Americans, or how one acts on the job -all determined by their environment driven by powerful social factors. We have to thank Richard Wright for successfully conveying these experiences through literary arts.
 The Free Dictionary, “Naturalism,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/naturalism, February 12, 2013.