Advertisement

Moralizing White Male Nostalgia: Richard Wright’s Savage Holiday

  • Tim Engles
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter analyzes Richard Wright’s literary depiction of a representative white male psyche in terms of the author’s critically cognizant black perspective. In Savage Holiday (1954), an overtly Freudian crime novel, a white male insurance executive boils over while trying to contain his emotions in obedience to his era’s expectations of white, middle-class, Christian-oriented career men. Wright exposes the violent side of the nostalgic underpinnings of a collective, besieged white masculine psyche that partially bolsters itself with claims of moral superiority. This chapter advances recently renewed scholarly interest in Wright’s novel by reading its visceral excesses as an allegorical satire on its era’s collective white male emotions, including their grounding in nostalgia and relationally constructed morality. Wright satirizes both ironically immoral white supremacy and postwar white male longings for an earlier social eminence.

Bibliography

  1. Atwood, Margaret. “Margaret Atwood on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump.” New York Times, March 10, 2017, n.p. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/books/review/margaret-atwood-handmaids-tale-age-of-trump.html. Accessed 10.14.2017.
  2. Baldwin, James. The Price of the Ticket. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Google Scholar
  3. Barthes, Raymond. “Interview.” In Conversations with Richard Wright, edited by Keneth Kinnamon & Michel Fabre. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993: 166–68. Google Scholar
  4. Berthold, Dana. “Tidy Whiteness: A Genealogy of Race, Purity, and Hygiene.” Ethics and the Environment 15, No. 1 (2010): 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blum, Edward J., and Paul Harvey. The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012. Google Scholar
  6. Boren, Zachary. “The Nature of Nostalgia.” Contemporary Psychotherapy 5, No. 1 (Spring, 2013): n.p. http://www.contemporarypsychotherapy.org/volume-5-no-1-spring-2013/the-nature-of-nostalgia/. Accessed 5.22.2018.
  7. Cassuto, Leonard. “A Father’s Law, 1950s Masculinity, and Richard Wright’s Agony over Integration.” In Richard Wright: New Readings in the 21st Century, edited by Alice Mikal Craven & William E. Dow. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011: 39–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Charbonnier, Georges. “A Negro Novel About White People.” In Conversations with Richard Wright, edited by Keneth Kinnamon & Michel Fabre. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993: 235–38. Google Scholar
  9. Charles, John C. Abandoning the Black Hero: Sympathy and Privacy in the Postwar African American White-Life Novel. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  10. Demirtürk, E. Lâle. “Mapping the Terrain of Whiteness: Richard Wright’s Savage Holiday.” MELUS 24, No. 1 (1999): 129–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Des Moines Register. “Asserts Negro’s Fight for Equality Benefit to Nation.” In Conversations with Richard Wright, edited by Keneth Kinnamon & Michel Fabre. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993: 85–86. Google Scholar
  12. DiPiero, Thomas. White Men Aren’t. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Driscoll, Christopher M. White Lies: Race and Uncertainty in the Twilight of American Religion. New York: Routledge, 2016. Google Scholar
  14. Dubek, Laura. “’Til Death Do Us Part: White Male Rage in Richard Wright’s Savage Holiday.” Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures 61, No. 4 (2008): 593–613.Google Scholar
  15. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2015. Google Scholar
  16. Early, Gerald. “Afterword.” Savage Holiday. 1954. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994: 223–35. Google Scholar
  17. Fabre, Michel. The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993.Google Scholar
  18. Fanon, Frantz. White Skin, Black Masks. 1952. New York: Grove Press, 2008. Google Scholar
  19. Gardner, Jared. Master Plots: Race and the Founding of an American Literature, 1787–1845. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. Google Scholar
  20. Goetz, Rebecca Anne. The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Google Scholar
  21. Gounard, J. F., and Beverley Roberts Gounard. “Richard Wright’s Savage Holiday: Use or Abuse of Psychoanalysis?” College Language Association Journal 22 (1979): 344–49.Google Scholar
  22. Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. New York: Picador, 1999. Google Scholar
  23. Green, Tara. “The Virgin Mary, Eve, and Mary Magdalene in Richard Wright’s Novels.” CLA Journal 46, No. 2 (2002): 168–93.Google Scholar
  24. Harvey, Jennifer. Whiteness and Morality: Pursuing Racial Justice Through Reparations and Sovereignty. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. JanMohamed, Abdul R. The Death-Bound-Subject: Richard Wright’s Archaeology of Death. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kidd, Colin. The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  27. King, Martin Luther, Jr. Interview transcript, “Meet the Press” April 17, 1960. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/interview-meet-press. Accessed 10.14.2017.
  28. Kinnamon, Kenneth, and Michel Fabre. Conversations with Richard Wright. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993. Google Scholar
  29. Kiuchi, Toru. “Psychoanalysis as Self-Reflection in Richard Wright’s Savage Holiday.” In Richard Wright: Writing America at Home and from Abroad, edited by Virginia Whatley. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2016: 118–38.Google Scholar
  30. Kuhl, Stephan. “Guilty Children: Richard Wright’s Savage Holiday and Fredric Wertham’s Dark Legend.” Amerikastudien/American Studies 55, No. 4 (2010): 667–84.Google Scholar
  31. La Nef. “Are the United States One Nation, One Law, One People?” In Conversations with Richard Wright, edited by Keneth Kinnamon & Michel Fabre. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993: 173–79.Google Scholar
  32. Leotta, Alfio. Touring the Screen: Tourism and New Zealand Film Geographies. Bristol and Chicago: Intellect/University of Chicago Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  33. Li, Stephanie. Playing in the White: Black Writers, White Subjects. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lipsitz, George. How Racism Takes Place. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011. Google Scholar
  35. López, Alfred J. “The Gaze of the White Wolf: Psychoanalysis, Whiteness, and Colonial Trauma.” In Postcolonial Whiteness: A Critical Reader on Race and Empire, edited by Alfred J. López. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005: 155–82. Google Scholar
  36. Margolies, Edward. The Art of Richard Wright. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969. Google Scholar
  37. Nast, Heidi J. “Mapping the ‘Unconscious’: Racism and the Oedipal Family.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90, No. 2 (2000): 215–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Perkinson, James W. White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Reilly, John M. “Richard Wright’s Curious Thriller, Savage Holiday.” College Language Association Journal 21 (1977): 218–23.Google Scholar
  40. Smith, Virginia Whatley. “Lying, Deception, Truth-Telling, and Self-Negation: Ironies and Failures of Nation-Building in Wright’s African Parody Savage Holiday.” In Richard Wright: Writing America at Home and from Abroad, edited by Virginia Whatley Smith. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2016: 98–117.Google Scholar
  41. Sullivan, Shannon. Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  42. Takaki, Ronald. Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  43. Tate, Claudia. Psychoanalysis and Black Novels: Desire and the Protocols of Race. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Google Scholar
  44. Vassilowitch, John, Jr. “‘Erskine Fowler’: A Key Freudian Pun in Savage Holiday.” English Language Notes 18, No. 3 (1981): 206–8.Google Scholar
  45. Walker, Margaret. Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius. 1988. New York: Amistad Press, 1993.Google Scholar
  46. Watson, Veronica T. The Souls of White Folk: African American Writers Theorize Whiteness. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2015. Google Scholar
  47. Wilmore, Gayraud. “Black Theology: Its Significance for Christian Mission Today.” International Review of Mission 63 (1974): 211–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wright, Richard. “Between the World and Me.” Partisan Review 2, No. 8 (1935): 18–19.Google Scholar
  49. ———. Black Boy. 1945. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.Google Scholar
  50. ———. Savage Holiday. 1954. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994.Google Scholar
  51. Zimring, Carl A. Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States. New York and London: New York University Press, 2015.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eastern Illinois UniversityCharlestonUSA

Personalised recommendations