Imagined Cities #3 (Native Son)

Richard Wright, Native Son 1940. Racial politics, class warfare and ownership. The city as a battlefield. The segregated city. 

‘See all those buildings, Bigger?’ Max asked, placing an arm about Bigger’s shoulders. He spoke hurriedly, as though trying to mould a substance, which was warm and pliable but which might soon cool.

‘Yeah, I see ’em.’

‘You lived in one of those once, Bigger. They’re made out of steel and stone but the steel and stone don’t hold them together. You know what holds those buildings up, Bigger? You know what keeps them in their place, keeps them from tumbling down?’ Bigger looked at him, bewildered.

‘It’s the belief of men. If men stopped believing, stopped having faith, they’d come tumbling down. Those buildings sprang up out of the hearts of men, Bigger. Men like you, men kept hungry, kept needing and those buildings kept growing and unfolding. You once told me you wanted to do a lot of things. Well, that’s the feeling that keeps buildings in their places.’


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