The Marxist and Postmodern Representation of the Subaltern:

Capitalist Othering in Richard Wright’s Native Son and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger


  • Eric Huxley MacEwan University


Richard Wright’s Native Son examines the marginalization of Black Americans in the United States in the forties. In addition, Aravind Adiga adapts the Booker prize winning novel The White Tiger from Wright’s novel; however, The White Tiger depicts a postcolonial capitalist India in the twenty-first century. Despite the adaptation, Wright composed Native Son in 1940 when Marxism existed as a potential solution to the marginalization of Black Americans under a capitalist system; in turn, Wright depicts marginalization by applying social realism to produce a socially didactic text that promotes Marxism. However, James Baldwin criticized Wright’s reliance on social realism and argued that Wright’s text fails to envision a future without marginalization. In contrast, Adiga wrote The White Tiger in 2008 following the rise of global capitalism and postmodern literary aesthetics, and in so doing, nihilistically and amorally examines the marginalization that results from capitalism. However, comparing Wright and Adiga’a texts reveals the correlation between capitalist oppression and colonialism despite both texts occurring during periods of post colonization. Furthermore, by analyzing the main characters’ problematic and violent actions in each text, Wright and Adiga suggest that toxic subaltern masculinity stems from the effects of oppression. In so doing, comparing both texts reveals both the twenty-first century postmodern and social realist responses towards capitalist oppression.

Department: English 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sara Grewal and Dr. David Hollingshead