The Women In Richard Wright's Uncle Tom’s Children

1351 words - 5 pages

Some critics have argued that Richard Wright’s women are “flat, one dimensional stereotypes, portrayed primarily in terms of their relationship to the male character”. (Quote, p540) However, in Uncle Tom’s Children, Wright resents three very distinct types of female characters who did not fit this description. Wright portrays women as an Avenger, a Sufferer and a Mother figure whose actions propel the stories to their final conclusion. In the story “Bright and Morning Star” Wright places the protagonist, Aunt Sue, in a domestic environment. “Her hands followed a lifelong ritual of toil” (pg222) as she cleans and cooks. Interestingly, Aunt Sue is the only heroine in the stories, who shows a different type of bravery than perhaps shown by the male figures in other stories. She is brave in the face of the loss of her two sons; she is brave as she does not show weakness to the white men who attempt to control her and make her do their bidding. She does not allow herself to be bound by the conventions of society. She speaks her mind to the white men who invade her home and states “Ah don’t care who Ahm talking t!” (pg238). Aunt Sue is portrayed as a cunning woman, who hides behind men’s perception of her as weak and uses it to her advantage. Her final act of bravery in the story is to giver herself up to death, before the white men can take her life from her. Wright also portrays women as sufferers in his work. Sarah, in “Long Black Song” suffers from isolation and is stuck in a loveless marriage. The gap between men and women is very much evident in this story. Sarah is very much dependent on Silas for company, security and items of comfort. Silas is allowed to exceed from the isolation imposed on his wife. Even when Sarah flees from the house, there is no where for her to go and she is eft to the mercy of nature. In the story, “Down by the Riverside”, Lulu endures a physical suffering as she waits to be brought to a hospital. Once again, we see a female character dependent on her male counterpart for her well being. Lulu is very much a catalyst for the action in the story. Her suffering forces Mann to act, pushes him to use the stolen boat and ultimately seals his fate. The final archetype of women offered in the collection is the role of women as mothers. In “Long Black Song” Sarah is the primary caregiver and is responsible for looking after the house. Her primary concern is her child when Silas throws her from the house. This idea of women as the caregiver is evident in all of the stories. The mother figure in “Big Boy Leaves Home” frets about her son’s well being as the father makes arrangement to get his son to safety. Aunt Sue in “Bright and Morning Star” takes action to protect her son and his comrades. Throughout the stories we see time and time again that the place of the woman is in the private sphere, the home, while the men are far more assertive in the public setting.
All of the stories in “Uncle Tom’s Children” draw upon African...

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