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Opposing views for social change

Native Son and Go Tell It on the Mountain are clearly social critiques of the black experience in conflicts with white dominated society. They are powerful works of literature; media formulated to spark social awareness and illuminate the racial disparity in American society. Both pieces present the necessity for change not only in the African-American community but also in all of society in hopes to end racial prejudice and inequality. Although Baldwin and Wright’s messages of reform are similar, each presents differing avenues for achieving that change. They deliver significantly opposing messages of dealing with the rage that oppression and hate generates. James Baldwin said, “There is not a Negro alive who does not have this rage in his blood – one has the choice, merely, of living with it consciously or surrendering to it.” Go Tell It on the Mountain is a novel that presents the option of “living with it consciously.” Native Son explores the darker possibilities when one chooses the later. The works of Richard Wright and James Baldwin represent the voices of two very basic outlooks on social reform. Wright’s views, expressed in Native Son, are of justifiable violent behavior with almost no option for choice. It is a view shared by hundreds of thousands who support proactive movements like the Black Panthers, Stokely Carmichal, or Malcolm X. Although the reader yearns for Bigger to find another way, the key meaning of Native Son is the final understanding that there were no other choices. In Wright’s world and the world of Bigger Thomas, brutality was an inevitable course of action to racial injustice. Gruesome violence sadly fulfilled Bigger need for self-identification and empowerment. The antithesis is Go Tell It on the Mountain’s optimistic “Martin Luther King”-like message. It is a message about changing the individual’s heart before atte...

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