Date of Award

6-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Nadia Nurhussein

Second Advisor

Cheryl Nixon

Third Advisor

Patrick Barron

Abstract

During times of economic upheaval, political movements that encourage a redistribution of wealth are especially popular. This essay focuses on two novels that were widely read at the time of their publications, in part because of the political message they promoted. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward was published in 1888, during a storm of violent labor riots in the United States. Bellamy believed that a new system of government was needed, where all wealth was redistributed between each citizen, and the government focused on industrializing the production of food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. His novel had a great impact on the political conversation at the time, inspiring thousands of people to start Nationalists organization in their cities. Richard Wright published his controversial novel, Native Son, in 1940 during a tense period after the Great Depression when urban expansion exasperated racial conflicts. The novel features a young black man, Bigger Thomas, who commits two murders and is sentenced to death after his capture. Wright based his character on a popular news story in Chicago, where a man named Robert Nixon went on a killing spree and caused a panic across the city. Using James Jasper's sociological essay, "The Emotions of Protest," this essay explores the use of political rhetoric in both novels, as well as the nature of fiction as means to illicit empathy and inspire political action. Jasper outlines Moral Outrage, Blame, and Frame Alignment as the necessary ingredients to most public protests. Bellamy and Wright use all three of these steps by framing their political message with shocking content, sympathetic narration, and realism toward their subject matter. The use of fiction allows these authors to control the reader's perception of injustice in a way that is both literary and a powerfully effective political tool.

Comments

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