Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John Lowe


This dissertation explores the ways that Richard Wright's work reflects both history and his own personal experiences (memories) of the South. These two elements---history and memory---served to inspire Wright's, the writer's, imagination, and to fuel Wright's, a Black man's, anger and hostility. Wright's technique of (re)writing or mastering the images of Black males as they struggle in environments they perceive as hostile, is compounded by his feelings about religion. Although Wright rejected organized religions, whether Christian, tribal, or Communism, he, ironically, used the figurative language similar to that of sermons, including Biblical stories and symbols, to appeal to his readers and to develop his themes. Wright's ideology about religion as a means of control echoes the teachings of the philosopher, G. F. W. Hegel on the Master-Slave relationship, as he describes it in Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel maintains that the master's power is bound to and identified through the slave. In turn, the slave, though he is in the social position of inferiority, has limited power over the master by denying the master complete control over him, particularly in the area of labor, and subsequently forces his master to rely on him psychologically. While the master is preoccupied with control, the slave remains consistently conscious of freedom. The protagonists in Wright's fiction resist control in their search for freedom. I argue that Wright read and actively used Hegel's concepts; yet, as I demonstrate in certain sections of this study, Hegel's dialectic is not the only approach useful in understanding the origins and manifestations of Wright's views about power and religion.