n Latin American Report - Ambiguities in novels that deal with black crime in African American fiction

Volume 26, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-6060



This paper explores the presentation of black crime in Richard Wright's , Ralph Ellison's and James Baldwin's . Apart from questioning the wisdom of projecting black people who display criminal tendencies in the above-mentioned texts, the paper places crime and black criminality in the broad discourse of race relations in America. In a society where black people are believed to harbour criminal tendencies, these writers' presentation of black characters is fraught with ambiguities. It is a truism to say that the writers may have intended to show black deprivation, poverty and the attendant immorality; however, in the process they produce images that justify black people's criminalisation, exploitation and further incarceration. It is perhaps needless to point out that the bulk of the images of the black family that we track in the three texts are pathological. One way of looking at these repulsive images is to claim that the three writers do not believe in them. Therefore, they use hideous images of black people as criminals in what amounts to critical realism so that the system will transform itself and stop reproducing such characters. Another approach is to look at the images in a clinical way, assuming that the writers exhort black people to shun criminal behaviour in spite of the stakes against them. The article puts a laser-sharp focus on the multipronged meanings that can be deduced from the societies we see in the three texts.

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