Big Black Good Man Is a Story Essay

  • Length: 6 pages
  • Sources: 4
  • Subject: Race
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #76798074

Excerpt from Essay :

Big Black Good Man is a story by Richard Wright which was published in 1958, three years before his death. The story is a part of Eight Men which is a collection of stories. It has themes of alienation, fear and suspense which is fiction of Wright. This story is well-known in all parts of the world and is also included in The Art of the Tale: An International Anthology of Short Stories which is shortened by Daniel Halpern in 1987.

The Story Big Black Good Man demonstrates hatred by a white American to black American sailor who comes to stay at a hotel of white American. The hatred caused was a result of size, blackness and loudness of black American. Thus, story reflects true racism caused between the two i.e. white American and black African-Americans (Sanders 98).

Characters

The story revolves mainly around Jim, a black American and Olaf Jenson, a white American. The story clearly demonstrated that racism is more found in white Americans, than in black Americans (Ward and Butler 112). Other characters include Karen and Lena. Following is the description of the characters of the story.

Olaf Jenson

Olaf is a porter in hotel where Jim arrives to stay. The story Big Black Good Man starts on the night prior to his 60th birthday. Olaf is a non-prejudiced ordinary man, who owns a home and is married to Karen Jenson. The story narrates that while he is in his office in hotel, he thinks that it would have been a good life if he had children and have saved more money for family; but he satisfied with his life.

Since Jim had arrived at the hotel, Olaf had snowed under by terror and revulsion. However, Olaf had never discriminated people for their race or size, but the combination of Jim's size and race has affected his thinking. In the story, his reaction to Jim's race and size showed that he misjudged him as he had assumed and was convinced by his thinking the Jim is threatening and cruel who showed meaningless violence even though in later part of the story, Jim's behavior was opposite to Olaf's thinking.

Jim

Jim is the major character of the story to which racism was expressed by Olaf, another major character of the story. Jim is a black American sailor who visits a hotel on the Copenhagen waterfront at night. His appearance showed that he is a well off man. He is a large sized man i.e., about six and one-half feet tall. Jim had a bluish cast as his skin is so black.

When he arrived at hotel, Jim handed over Olaf a sum of twenty-six hundred dollars cash. Moreover, he carried his suitcase to his room by himself as Olaf was old and small porter. In later part of story, when Jim returned to the hotel after a year, he brought six custom-tailored white shirts for Olaf for his good deeds.

Karen Jenson

Karen is the wife of Olaf and her appearance in the story is only in Olaf's thoughts.

Lena

The hotels services also included visiting of Lena, a prostitute who visits hotel to satisfy the sailors. On the night of Jim's arrival, Olaf called Lena when he asked for a woman. Story describes Lena as big, blond and strong women. Olaf thought that Lena will better handle Jim than any other women. Moreover, Olaf is more content with Lena as she brings more profit to him than any other women prostitutes.

Lena is a mother of four young children and therefore she was ready to visit Jim. She visited Jim on all six nights of his stay. A year later, when Jim returned, he stayed at her home. The story describes that she didn't go to hotel again after Jim's stay at there, revealing that Jim had started supporting her.

Story Plot

The story Big Black Good Man is about Olaf Jenson who is a white American at a cheap hotel where sailors arrive to stay. Before he met Jim, he was not racist or a prejudiced man. However, after meeting Jim, a tall, huge, black skinned muscular black American, his thoughts showed hatred and discrimination between white American and black American. He started hating him so much that he did not wanted Jim to stay at his hotel for his next visit (Gelfant and Graver 595). Jim carries himself with all the characteristics of African-American people. Olaf began fearing him due to his color and size. For many nights, Olaf had cursed water, ground and every other thing Jim had touched or used. Olaf wished him death and harm. All these actions of Olaf showed true racism found in white people. After the end of Jim's stay at hotel, Olaf spent a long time hating and cursing him. Olaf was confused by his strange behavior that even after dealing with people belong to different races included blacks, why his hatred to too much for Jim. After spending six nights in the hotel, Jim put his hands around the neck of Jim and massaged his throat. Upon Jim's action, Olaf was frightened and thought that Jim's intention is to kill him. The story also narrates that Olaf's hatred can be a reason of being jealous of Jim's health and strength. After Jim left hotel, Olaf questioned Lena many times whether Jim had hurt her.

When Jim returned to the hotel after a year, Olaf had so much hatred for him. Olaf promised himself that he would not give him a room wand will shot him dead if Jim gets near to him. It happened that before Jim's questioning for room, Olaf refused by saying that there is no room available. This time Jim was not looking for a room, but he had come to gift Olaf six shirts. On Jim's this act, Olaf was shocked and was guilty for his hatred towards him. Olaf confesses to Jim that he had thought to shot him dead and cried openly at his hatred and that thought.

Discussion

This story shows racism between white American and black American people. However, white American shows more hatred and discrimination as compared to black American. This piece of story is referred by many people all over the world whenever a debate for racism is made. In the beginning of the story Big Black Good Man, Olaf was not a discriminatory man as he gave rooms to every sailor i.e. black, whites, and browns etc., who visit his hotel. When Olaf met Jim, he wondered about his size, blackness and loudness. However later Olaf became prejudiced regarding Jim as he had started hating him. Jim used his directness, size, strength and loudness when he came to hotel for the first time which created fear and wonderment in Olaf. It can also be said that Olaf's hatred and Fear had led to prejudice and is a cause for racism (Ward and Butler 112).

In the story, Big Black Good Man, the author's main purpose was to express racism that deep rooted in white American and so far by the well recognition of this story; the author is successful in clearing his thoughts. The story clearly focuses on the true and basic reasons for racism i.e. fear (Gelfant and Graver 595). It is the fact that fear breeds discrimination and racism. Like the story narrates that Olaf does not discriminates among races, but had so much fear and hatred for Jim that he want to punish and kill black American because of his huge size and blackness.

This story really teaches us that when one starts judging an individual simply on the basis of the color of size, skin, and size or by any other characteristic that is different leads to poor assumptions which eventually breed hate (Sanders 97). For instance in the story, Olaf waited Jim to leave the hotel on his first visit. The time when Jim comes to depart, Olaf was so happy and relieved. However, as stated in the story that "…this particular black man…Well, he didn't seem human. Too big, too black, too loud, too direct, and probably too violent to boot…Olaf's five feet seven inches scarcely reached the black giant's shoulder and his frail body weighed less, perhaps, then one of the man's gigantic legs…There was something about the man's intense blackness and ungainly bigness that frightened and insulted Olaf: he felt as though this man had come here expressly to remind him how puny, how tiny, and how weak and how white he was… for the first time in his life, he was emotionally determined to refuse a man a room solely on the basis of the man's size and color" (Wright 208) a fear entered into Olaf that breed hate due to Jim's being huge, strong and black. If considered in isolation, Olaf's behavior upon meeting Jim is justified as Olaf being a tiny old many compared himself to Jim, a tall and strong man, it is natural…

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