Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 62, Issue 5, pp 687–707 | Cite as

Redemptive Prose: Richard Wright’s Re-authoring of the Patricidal Urtext



The pen is mightier than the sword! This adage, written by English playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton, is a concise declaration that calls attention to the potency of the written word. By no means the exclusive preserve of the political revolutionary (e.g., Marx and Engel’s Manifesto of the Communist Party) nor of the theological reformer (e.g., Luther’s The Ninety-Five Theses), the mighty pen is also an instrument used by persons who seek either to effect or to experience a change in a number of diverse, and sometimes more personal, issues. As readers, we often ignore that many authors may be working through their own turmoil—whether psychological, spiritual, or otherwise—when they clasp the pen to put their thoughts to paper. How, then, do authors use the pen as a therapeutic tool to remedy their inner wounds, the unseen trauma often caused by various “psychosocial swords”? This article offers a particularized response to this inquiry by investigating the pain of paternal abandonment and the restorative efficacy of filial wisdom evinced in Richard Wright’s novels Black Boy and The Long Dream. It is my contention that Wright’s redemptive prose presents convincing evidence that the pen, as an instrument of restoration, is indeed mightier than any sword used to sever those inalienable relationships (e.g., the father-son dyad) that give sustenance to and are therefore an essential part of one’s selfhood.


Richard Wright Loss Patricide Filial wisdom Urtext 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ReligionEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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