Native Son, by Richard Wright, was hailed by reviewers as an instant classic upon its release in 1940. The novel was an instant bestseller, having been included in the book-of-the-month-club. Due to its proto revolutionary themes it was the subject of many reviews. Two such reviewers are Clifton Fadiman and Malcolm Cowley.
Clifton Fadiman, writer for The New Yorker declared that Native Son was the most powerful American novel since the Grapes of Wrath. He is positive that anyone who reads this book has to know what it means to be a Negro, especially being a Negro in the U.S. over seventy years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Fadiman then goes on to compare the novel to Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, declaring that his novel did for the American white as Native Son did for the Negro.
Fadiman begins criticizing Bigger Thomas, the main character in the novel. He feels that Bigger is just a stupid fool, having done everything possible to actually get himself caught. Fadiman also writes that Bigger '...knew that the moment he allowed what his life meant to enter fully into his consciousness, he would either kill himself or somebody else.' Fadiman then goes on by criticizing Wright stating that he is too explicit, repetitive, and overdoes his melodrama from time to time. Fadiman does not believe Wright to be a finished writer just yet. However, he does think that Wright possesses the two absolute necessities of the first-rate novelist, passion and intelligence. He also understands that Wright must have been greatly affected by the labor movement, which may have contributed to Native Son.
At the conclusion of his review, Fadiman once again compares Native Son to An American Tragedy. He says that the two novels tell almost the same story. Although He feels that Dreiser's novel is filled with better, more controlled knowledge; he feels that Wright's novel will have the same affect on the reader if they are not afraid of a challenge. By saying 'afraid,' Fadiman means that Native Son is not merely a story but a deep experience.
The next review that we will look at is one done by Malcolm Cowley, writer for The New Republic. Cowley immediately compares Native Son to Steinbeck's The Grapes of...