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No Accident, ComradeChance and Design in Cold War American Narratives$
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Steven Belletto

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199826889

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199826889.001.0001

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Accidents Going Somewhere to Happen

Accidents Going Somewhere to Happen

African-American Self-Definition at Mid-Century

Chapter:
(p.80) 4 Accidents Going Somewhere to Happen
Source:
No Accident, Comrade
Author(s):

Steven Belletto

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199826889.003.0004

Beginning with a discussion of Colson Whitehead’s more recent novel The Intuitionist (1999), chapter four covers a range of works, from the most influential African-American novels of mid-century, Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952), to less frequently discussed works such as Wright’s own second novel, The Outsider (1953), and John A. Williams’ The Man Who Cried I Am! (1967). The chapter demonstrates how African Americans writers dramatized a sense of being caught between the competing systems of control represented by Communism on the one hand, and the promise of American democratic freedom on the other. Tracing an arc from Native Son to The Man Who Cried I Am!, the chapter demonstrates the ever-changing relationship between the individual and political rhetoric by showing how the denial of chance was first attributed to Communists, who in Invisible Man simply want to control African Americans for their own purposes, and then moves finally The Man Who Cried I Am!, which shows that, from a black perspective, American democracy masks a fantasy of complete control.

Keywords:   African-American literature and the Cold War, race and communism, Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952), Richard Wright, The Outsider (1953), John A. Williams, The Man Who Cried I Am (1967), Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist (1999)

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