The Tone Of Bright And Morning Star

The Tone Of Bright And Morning Star

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Under Communist rule, everyone is equal by law. That's why during the 1920 to the 1950's, African Americans flocked to join the party. Included in the flock of black Communists was the renowned black author, Richard Wright, whose works are today known for their dark portrayal of black Communist life. A critic summarizes the influence on his stories: "As a poor black child growing up in the deep South, Richard Wright suffered poverty, hunger, racism and violence... experiences that later became central themes of his work" ("Richard Wright" 1). Richard Wright's many literary work, especially his short stories, all deal with those dark themes. One of his most famous short stories, "Bright and Morning Star", is a story that: "[. . .] carefully investigates the inner psychology of Aunt Sue, a mother of Communists[. . .]" as an essayist summarizing the story's plot (Kent 43). In other words, the story follows the deadly and dangerous dilemmas of Aunt Sue, a black Communist mother of black Communist sons living in the South, as she tries to protect her son that is not in jail, Johnny-Boy, and the other Communist members at the same time.. He is out recruiting for a Communist meeting, and the Sheriff and his white mob are hunting him down. Wright writes the story so expertly that the reader really experiences Communist life in the South, and get caught up in the danger and suspense of the story, living it as though he or she were part of the story! He was able to create this tone of fright and suspense using stylistic devices like colloquialisms, foreshadowing, and symbolism.
Richard Wright uses the stylistic device called colloquialisms, dialogue that was very realistic for the setting, to help the reader mentally experience the story, making it
more frightening and suspenseful. Colloquialisms used in "Bright and Morning Star" were extremely realistic for the Southern setting. A colloquialism is a piece of dialogue that is written exactly how it would be said in real life- if the character has an accent, muffles words, or skips over consonants, it is written so. Puts a critic, Wright "[. . .] emphasizes the pronunciation of words uttered both by a stereotypical Southern person as well as by a stereotypical African American living in the South" ("Bright and Morning Star" 41). So, since the story is set in the South(where everyone has an accent), all of the dialogue is written in a realistic colloquial form, and as realistically as the dialogue could possibly get.

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The character's simple sentences in the story, such as "Yuh an got the right sperit" and "N some hot cawffee" written in colloquial form lets readers imagine a Southern conversation very clearly and bring them into the story to enhance the overall story's tone (Wright 237). Writes a critic about colloquialisms, "This type of dialogue, if done carefully, pulls the reader into the setting" ("Bright and Morning Star" 41). That statement is true because colloquialisms add the sense of sound to the story's overall sensory experience, making it more intense and realistic. Pulling a reader into the story allows the reader to get caught up in the fear and suspense it brings. Using these stupendously realistic colloquialisms, Wright was able to add fear and suspense to the story's tone.
Foreshadowing, another literary device Wright uses to create a fearful, suspenseful tone, is defined as actions, plot twists, or dialogue put into a story in order to give readers a hint at what might happen further into the story. There is much foreshadowing in "Bright Morning Star", in order to create a "perfectly wrought tension" to keep readers in suspense ("Bright and Morning Star" 41). The major foreshadowing, however, is contained in the conflict of the story - more specifically, the desperate actions taken by both sides of the conflict during the story's course. On one side of the conflict is a white mob led by the Sheriff, hunting for Communists in Aunt Sue's small town. To be more specific, they are very much hunting for Aunt Sue's son Johnny-Boy, and they are becoming more and more violent with each passing sentence.. On the other side of the conflict is Aunt Sue, whose dilemma to protect both Johnny-Boy and the other Communists is getting harder and harder, and she is resulting to desperate martyrdom. Both of the sides' desperate measures foreshadow a sepulchral ending to the story.
The Sheriff and his mob's side of the conflict foreshadow demise by getting more and more violent and vicious in their quest to capture black Communists. Their violence hints that there is only going to be more violence in the story's future, since it is increasing. They act rashly and cruelly to the blacks right from their first appearance in the story, when they invade Sue's house looking for Johnny-Boy while she sleeps. When she discovers them, they proceed to taunt her into giving the location of Johnny-Boy and the names of other Communist members. When she refuses, they slap her so hard that "[. . .] she reeled backward several feet and fell on her side[. . .]" (Wright 239). When she mouths off to them as they leave, the Sheriff beats her into unconsciousness. She couldn't of possibly defended herself against him, but he beat her all the same, just to prove his point, "[. . .]his wet shoes coming into her temple and stomach" (241). The Sheriff and his mob, driven by their quest for Communists, have let themselves overreact, get worse in their violence and not only make the story more scary, but foreshadow even more violence in the end of the story.
Aunt Sue is the other side of the conflict, whose increasing martyrdom and defiance to her cause foreshadows the story's horrid demise. She tries to protect Johnny-Boy and the other Communists at the same time, but the problem gets too hard - and she becomes martyrlike, because "Sue would do anything for her sons - except betray others" (Felgar 29). This means she is more committed to her Communist martyrdom than she is to her own sons. Like the Sheriff and the mob, she is martyr-like and sassily defiant right from the very start - and in the McCarthy Era, it was asking for trouble for a black person to be those things. When the mob first invades her house, causing the first conflict clash, she immediately yells for them to get out instead of letting them just ransack her home. When she is slapped for refusing to give names, instead of backing down, "She stood before him again, dry-eyed, as though she had not been struck" (Wright 239). She takes even more hits for her stubbornness. When the Sheriff realizes he is not going to get to her, and starts to leave, she even mouths off to him, shouting, "Yuh didn't git whut yuh wanted! N yuh ain gonna nevah git it" - which is such a daring thing to say from a black person to a white person that it seals another beating for her, which she receives promptly (Wright 240). Both Aunt Sue's deadly martyrdom and the Sheriff's violence, both desperate measures taken to win over their problems, foreshadow the story's frightening end and keep readers in suspense.
Symbolism is the last stylistic device used in the story to create the story's intense tone. Symbolism is a device that makes certain items, actions, dialogue, people, or places in a literary work stand for something different. For example, Richard Wright uses the constant rainfall of "Bright and Morning Star" to symbolize the hardships and oppression of the blacks before and during The McCarthy Era. "Bright and Morning Star" is actually part of a series of Wright's short stories in a book called Uncle Tom's Children. A critic writes about the theme of the book: "All of the stories in Uncle Tom's Children [. . .] deal with the oppression of black people in the South, violence of whites against blacks, and the violence to which the black characters are driven by their victimization" ("Richard (Nathaniel) Wright" 1). So, it is very natural for there to be symbolism of black oppression in "Bright and Morning Star", as another critic writes: "It is perhaps appropriate that the single day covered by the last story, ‘Bright and Morning Star', is drenched with rain. In many ways it bears the fruits of the entire anthology" (JonMohamed 391). The rain in "Bright and Morning Star" is utterly symbolic for the hardships of the blacks, and adds to the fear and suspense of the story.
It rains the entire course of the "Bright and Morning Star", and the rain symbolizes black oppression and hardships starts in the very first sentence: "She stood with her black face some six inches from the moist windowpane and wondered when on Earth would it ever stop raining" (Wright 221). A renowned critic correctly sums up Wright's intended symbolism in the sentence by stating: "Thus, in the story's first sentence, Wright has set the tone for the entire story, and this mood will prevail to the end, as Sue feared, never ending" (Hart 46). As long as it rains, Sue's hardships never end. And since it rains the whole story, the hardships never do end, either. In addition, another critic writes, "Rain is literally and symbolically the pressure of adversity. Adversity has made her strong, keenly aware of life, resourceful. It has also bogged her down in escapable poverty and political oppression which deprives her of her sons and of life itself" (Oleson 52). The rain serves as a symbol for Sue and all of the other black's oppression - it is what makes them strong, but what also seals their fate. This depressing symbolism adds a sense of fear for the fate of Sue and her son, and keeps readers on edge and hoping that the rain will stop and things will get better.
All of these stylistic devices, colloquialisms, foreshadowing, and symbolism, have contributed to the fear and suspense in which readers experience while reading the story. Colloquialisms added the sense of sound to the story and helped readers really imagine what the story was like. Foreshadowing gave hints to the story's future and kept readers in a scary suspense to see just what kind of horrible things would happen. Symbolism used rain to symbolize the hardships and oppression of the blacks, and added a depressing and tense atmosphere to the story's experience, and fear for Aunt Sue's fate. Aunt Sue, Johnny-Boy, and all of the other black Communists joined the party for equality, since everyone is equal under Communist law. Richard Wright's dark short stories were influenced by his experience in the Communist party. And in his short story "Bright and Morning Star", he expertly uses his stylistic devices to create an intense tone of fright and suspense that lets us truly experience what black Communist life must've been like.

Works Cited

"Bright and Morning Star." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Carol Ullmann. Volume 15.

Felgar, Robert. Student Companions to Classic Writers: Student Companions to Richard Wright. Westport: Greenwood Press, Inc., 2000.

Hart, Joyce. "Critical Essay on ‘Bright and Morning Star'." Short Stories for Students.
Ed. Carol Ullmann. 2002. 45-46.

JonMonhamed, Abdul. "Rehistoricizing Wright: The Psychopolitical Function of Death in ‘Uncle Tom's Children'." Richard Wright. 1987. pp. 191-228. Rpt. in Short
Story Criticism. Ed. Carol Gaffke. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1997. pp. 392.

Kent, George. "Richard Wright: Blackness and the Adventure of Western Culture." in CLA Journal, Vol XII, No. 4, June, 1969, pp. 322-43.

Oleson, Carole. "The Symbolic Richness of Richard Wright's ‘Bright and Morning Star'," in Negro American Literature Forum, Vol. 6, No. 4, Winter 1972. pp. 110-12.

"Richard (Nathaniel) Wright." Contemporary Authors, 2005. POWER Library. 23 March 2005.


"Richard Wright." U*X*L Biographies. U*X*L, 2005. Student Resource Center. Thomson Gale. 08 March 2005.


Wright, Richard. "Bright and Morning Star." Uncle Tom's Children. New York: Harper Collins, 1989. pp. 221-263.
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