Wright and Ellison : icons of African American protest literature.

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts


Wright and Ellison: Icons of African American Protest Literature analyzes the novels Native Son by Richard Wright (1940) and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952), and tries to determine the traits that make a successful African American protest novel. Both these novels are part of the African American literary canon and are noteworthy for challenging the previous conventions of African American literature, both in form and in content. Wright wrote Native Son with the explicit intent of creating a work of protest literature. However, the novels deterministic tone and construction of a violent, aggressive, and static central character worked only to reinforce racist stereotypes rather than challenge them. On the other hand, the more philosophical and satirical tone of Invisible Man, and its educated, rational, and dynamic protagonist are more effective in confronting racist attitudes. Based on the analysis of these two novels, it becomes clear that a successful African American protest novel opposes and undermines the ideologies that perpetuate American racism. To this end, it is well served if it constructs a dynamic agent of protest who not only challenges negative stereotypes, but also changes over the course of the novel, or takes action, thereby inviting the reader to shift his or her thinking and actively participate in protesting racial injustice.