It's Bigger and hip-hop: Richard Wright, hip-hop, and masculinity

Marcos Julian Del Hierro, University of Texas at El Paso


Native Son, Richard Wright presents a view of the impoverished, inner-city from an insider's perspective, which reflects the anger and hate brewing towards the rest of the nation as a result of living under harsh, isolating conditions. Wright's main character, Bigger Thomas serves as an archetypal ghetto figure both in his attitudes and the treatment he receives from Anglo Americans. Additionally, the reception of Native Son by a majority white reading audience also reflected the voyeuristic thrill of the bourgeoisie when consuming cultural products by African Americans. The selection of Wright's novel into the Book of the Month Club displayed how a work meant to create social change becomes commodified for mass consumption, thereby stripping the work of its original intent. The same phenomenon occurs a half-century later with the rise of Hip-Hop music, specifically, gangsta rap. Rap artists, while assuming the Bigger Thomas archetype, use their status as objects for cultural consumption to rise out of the ghetto, but ultimately serve as objects for voyeurism because market forces call for violent, misogynistic works that fail creating social change. ^

Subject Area

Literature, American|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Gender Studies

Recommended Citation

Del Hierro, Marcos Julian, "It's Bigger and hip-hop: Richard Wright, hip-hop, and masculinity" (2009). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1465243.