Clowns and Literature Don't Mix!

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"In Black Boy (1945, 1991), Richard Wright's autobiographical novel, the narrative sometimes departs abruptly from the usual structure, a chronological account of Richard's troubled childhood and youth, depicted in dramatized episodes...For the reader, the list is a sign of the curiosity, candor, and imagination that have miraculously survived the abuses to which Richard is subjected" (Essential Literary Terms Hamilton 177).

 

   Surprisingly, I remember this part of this book from when I read it last year-let's just say the book didn't leave that great of an impression on me.  I remember reading about all of these horrible things that happened to Richard and the horrible things he did and thinking that it was amazing he was still standing.  This random list however, detracted from the text surrounding it.  It was difficult to stay focused on his work when even he was interupting himself!  This goes back to discussions we have had in Dr. Jerz's class about writing.  You don't write for yourself, you write for an audience.  Although Hamilton says it proves things to the reader, this, for most people, is simply not the case.  When you have an audience's attention, the last thing you want to do is point out the window at the clown who's juggling flaming bowling balls while riding a unicycle.  The audience will stop paying attention to you and start paying attention to the clown!  This is why this kind of shilft in style should be avoided unless there is good reason. 

 

By the way, if you like exciting books that are a little disturbing, I'd highly recommend reading one of Richard Wright's other stories, Native Son.

3 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

Angela, you do need a good reason, I agree. But I’m betting Wright had one. I mean I have not read the book myself, but I doubt the book would be as famous as it is, if he was not a good author. I think the authors need to be careful when they interrupt themselves, yes, but probably Wright got back on topic eventually. I’m sure he included that section for a specific reason. You do have my interest peaked now though, I want to go read the book, haha, even if you suggest Native Son instead.

This principle is also used in comedy. The low comedy always point out their laughs. Meanwhile, the high comedies use subtle wit and satire make the reader think. In both comedy and normal literature, one of the main objectives is to make the reader think.

P.S. I don't trust clowns...

There's also a tradition in epic literature called the "epic list." That's a moment, perhaps before a great battle, when the protagonist recites the names and histories of the heroes of the past; or, it's a long list of the people attending a feast (such as a wedding or funeral), or a description of a magnificent procession or a memorable contest. Just as the TV interrupts coverage of sporting events to show little features on the family lives of the players, a literary author can momentarily shift focus to the community rather than to the individual living in that society. I haven't read Black Boy, but I found Native Son gripping.

Oh, and I, too, mistrust clowns.

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