I’m almost 400 pages into Richard Wright’s novel Native Son when I read this passage that strikes me as truly beautiful:
If he reached out with his hands, and if his hands were electric wires, and if his heart were a battery giving life and fire to those hands, and if he reached out with his hands and touched other people, reached out through these stone walls and felt other hands connected with other hearts – if he did that, would there be a reply, a shock? … And in that touch, response of recognition, there would be union, identity; there would be a supporting oneness, a wholeness which had been denied him all his life.
For those who haven’t read it, Native Son was published in 1940 and is about a black man named Bigger Thomas who is convicted of raping and murdering a white woman and a black woman. Needless to say the novel centres around a lot of hate, fear and racism.
But I loved the yearning for unity that Bigger has and the way that he explains it as electricity (which is ironic because he’s likely to face the electric chair for his crimes – I haven’t reached the end of the book yet so I’m not sure what’s going to happen to him).
I’m reading this book for uni next semester, and though I’ve disliked Bigger as a character for most of the book, I’ve liked reading the story. I’d recommend it. It’s shocking and in pretty gruesome in parts (sometimes I’d wonder how it got printed in 1940), but well worth the internal discussion it leaves you with.