The dialog in Wright’s “Bright and Morning Star” is written in a colloquial form, emphasizing the pronunciation of words uttered both by a stereotypical Southern person as well as by a stereotypical African American living in the South. Wright uses this form not only to portray the tone of the South but also because he believed in a very realistic documentation of life. If people talked with an accent, muffling words, skipping over consonants, then that is what he would write. Examples of the dialog as written are the words “yuh” for you, “astin” for asking, “ernuff’ for enough.
Within this colloquialism is also the use of nonstandardized English grammar. Examples include “Don yuh wish you knowed?” (for Don’t you wish you knew!); “Yuh done did ernuff sass fer one night” (for You have done enough sass for one night); and “Whut she wans?” (for What does she want!). This type of dialog, if done carefully, pulls the reader into the setting. In the case of”Bright and Morning Star,” Wright’s use of colloquialism takes the reader into the rural South, a place that is somewhat exotic for many people. If he were to use this type of dialog throughout the story, it might be considered a bit heavy-handed. However, in most of the narration of the story, when Sue’s thoughts are expressed, Wright uses standardized English, giving the reader a chance to flow with the story without having to translate the colloquialisms.
Wright’s stories are often criticized for their lack of fully fleshed out characters and complexity of plot. However, one characteristic of Wright’s writing that most critics seem to agree on is his ability to create a tightly constructed psychological suspense in his narrative. Wright’s story “Bright and Morning Star” is a perfect example of how masterful he is in creating a perfectly wrought tension in his writing. From the opening scene with Sue standing at the window waiting anxiously for her son Johnny-Boy to return home to the last few sentences of this story as Sue lies in the mud dying, the reader is held in check, wondering when the anticipated final blow will fall. Wright fills his story with fear, which affects his characters and his readers, in turn. And it is this fear that puts everyone on edge. Even if the ending of the story were known, or at least anticipated, Wright’s direct and realistic depiction of pain and suffering make the reader first grimace and then wonder how much more his characters can and will endure. This question remains with the reader as the story unfolds and until the characters meet their doom.
Narration Wright’s story is narrated from a limited third person point of view. Readers are able to hear Sue’s thoughts and see the action through Sue’s eyes. They are not privy to the thoughts of any other character. Only through the dialog can the reader extrapolate the thoughts of the other people in the story. By using this point of view, Wright focuses all the attention on his protagonist, Sue. It is her story. She explains to the readers the motivations of her sons. Whether her interpretation is accurate will never be known.
The narration is so closely linked to the protagonist that there is no consideration given as to whether the narrator is not Sue. In other words, it is not a narrator who is watching the story; it is the narrator of Sue’s thoughts. For instance, when the narrator states that Sue “was consumed with a bitter pride,” the reader does not question this statement. It is read as if Sue had come to this conclusion, and the reader is merely a witness to her realization.
The setting for this story is the rural South, probably during the 1920s or the 1930s when the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, and frequent tortures and lynchings of African Americans were prominent. Although this story might have taken place in the North, as there certainly was racial violence there also, most people, at least in the United States, assume that it was in the South that this kind of activity took place. Due to the fact that Wright was raised in the South, he was more familiar with the social structure, the oppression, and the politics involved in living there. Trying to organize people and bringing white and black people together in order to do this were more dangerous endeavors in the South than in the North, thus giving his story a more dramatic edge.
Carol Ullmann (Editor) Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 15, Richard Wright, Published by Gale, 2002.