Palette of Fire
Palette of Fire
The Aesthetics of Propaganda in Black Boy and In the Castle of My Skin
This chapter considers the ways in which Richard Wright’s autobiography Black Boy influenced the Barbadian writer George Lamming’s autobiographical novel, In the Castle of My Skin. The discussion begins with a survey of Wright’s extensive interest in the circumCaribbean, and the experiences he had there. His friendship with Lamming provides insight into the latter’s admiration for both Wright and his works, and shows how this becomes evident in the Barbadian’s novel. Both texts were written in exile, a state that is explored using Edward Said’s theories, and accounts of Wright’s years in Paris and Lamming’s in London. Both novels, rightly seen as works of propaganda, are revealed to also be complex and lyrical works of art, employing a “palette of fire” to engage and challenge readers. Pertinent histories of Mississippi and Barbados add new angles of approach, and similarities between key characters - who illustrate the exigencies of colonial oppression and Jim Crow miseries - emerge through a use of literary theory and an arsenal of psycho-analytic tools. These issues are further examined through a reading of one of Wright’s related texts, the photo-documentary he compiled with Edwin Rosskam, Twelve Million Black Voices.
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