Richard Wright’s The Outsider (1953): Selected Quotes

“Modern man still believes in magic; he lives in a rational world but insists on interpreting the events of that world in terms of mystical forces.”

*   *   *

“Law then, by inhibiting man’s actions, posits a sense of crime in man; law makes the criminal consciousness of man.”

*   *   *

“In the old days we were concerned with mobs, with thousands of men running amuck in the streets. The mob has conquered completely. When the mob has grown so vast that you cannot see it, then it is everywhere. Today the compulsive acts of the lynching mobs have become enthroned in each individual heart . . . Every man now acts as a criminal, a policeman, a judge, and an executioner . . .”

SOURCE: Wright, Richard. The Outsider (1953). Restored text: Works. Volume 2. Later Works: Black Boy (American Hunger); The Outsider. New York: Library of America, 1991. (The Library of America; no. 56)

Note: Richard Wright is not to be underestimated as a thinker about modernity. He has been mischaracterized as merely a protest writer, a naturalistic writer, a ‘black writer’, a black writer who should have stayed away from existentialism; but his depth has yet to be widely and fully appreciated.  This novel, though flawed by the manner in which speechifying is inserted into the mouths of his characters, is still a compelling read and the ideas Wright references merit close attention. See more quotes linked below. (RD)

Richard Wright Defines The Outsider

Richard Wright’s Outsider, Negroes & Flying Saucers

Haiku for Richard Wright
by R. Dumain

Richard Wright Study Guide

Black Studies, Music, America vs Europe—Study Guide

Positivism vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide

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