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Uncle Tom's Children Essay- Feminism

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Annie Nguyen

English III


19 February 2019

Prompt: Do you believe that Richard Wright is a feminist based on his portrayal of female characters in Uncle Tom’s Children?

In a male-dominated society, women do not develop the symbols and stereotypes in which they deserve to be described as. Richard Wright’s women characters can be portrayed primarily in terms of their relationship to the male character. However, in Uncle Tom’s Children, Wright presents three very distinct types of female characters who did not fit this description. In his collection of stories, he mentions female characters who may be viewed as insignificant compared to the male protagonist characters. These women, however, also show traits that show strength, bravery, courage, and sacrifice. Wright can be seen as a feminist when he portrays the women characters as a hero, a sufferer, and a mother figure whose actions propel the stories to their final conclusion.

 Wright characterizes Aunt Sue a protagonist who protects an important secret at all costs. At the beginning of “Bright and Morning Star” Wright places the protagonist, Aunt Sue, in a domestic environment, where she is portrayed as a stereotypical mother who cleans and cooks. However, 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!” (wright 238). This reveals that Sue does not care who is talking to her, in this case, white men who have the capability to kill her for speaking against them or no telling them what they want to know. Aunt Sue is portrayed as a fearless woman, who hides behind men’s perception of her as weak and uses it to her advantage. By illustrating Sue’s role as a woman in the kitchen, it shows how women are stereotypically assigned with chores, cooking, and raising children. Aunt Sue is the only heroine in the stories, who shows a different type of bravery than perhaps shown by the male figures. 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. Her final act of bravery in the story is to give herself up to death, before the white men can take her life from her, in which she ended up saving the communist party from the white men.

Wright also portrays women as sufferers in his work. Sarah, in “Long Black Song” suffers from isolation and is stuck in a loveless marriage. Sarah is very much dependent on Silas for company, security and items of comfort. Even though she’s with Silas, she often thinks about Tom and “how weak she felt feeling his fingers sinking into the flesh of her hips” (Wright 128). In her life, she attempts to catch glimpses of happiness that were available when she was with the first man she loved, Tom, and as the story unfolds, she learns how this idea of happiness, or the good life, exists in all circumstances. This shows that she was willing to give up her happiness in order to survive and provide for her daughter. Sarah’s role in her relationships with men shows how women are often treated. She lived in fear of Silas, shown when she is always aware when he’s home and how she was cautious for everything she did. He was aggressive and abusive towards her when he became suspicious of the white salesman (Wright 142). Even when Sarah flees from the house, there is nowhere for her to go and she is left to the mercy of nature. Based on Sarah’s unhappiness, it reveals that Wright shows signs of feminism when he uses this story as a way to show how women do are treated in unhealthy marriages, how women are the one who have no control in male-dominant relationships, sacrificing their happiness for their children.

Wright illustrates the strength in mothers through the characterization of Lulu. In the story, “Down by the Riverside,” Mann tries to get his family to the hospital and to safety due to the flood. His wife, Lulu endures the physical suffering of labor for almost four days as she waits to be brought to a hospital (Wright 65). 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 struggle in giving birth shows the modernistic trait of man vs. self. Her suffering between herself and her body show her struggle in giving birth and the amount of pain she endured. Her suffering forces Mann to act, pushes him to use the stolen boat and ultimately seals his fate. Wright uses Lulu’s character as a way to show the strength of women, the pain that they go through for the people they care about, in this case, her baby. The strength and power revealed in Lulu’s struggle in labor shows that women suffer as much as men, that men may not understand the pain that women go through, that they are capable to do as much, or maybe even more than what men can do.

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