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Focused and pointed she was, buried in the depths of her star, swallowed in its peace and strength; and not feeling her flesh grow cold, cold as the rain that fell from the invisible sky upon the doomed living and the dead that never dies.
In Richard Wright’s 1939 “Bright and Morning Star”, An Sue (Aunt Sue) struggles and worries about her sons involvement with the secret meetings of the outlawed Communist Party in a small southern town. During this struggle, she gets brief memories of her Christian upbringing as a child through snippets of old hymns such as the one in which the story gets its title: “He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star”.
While the intensity of the plot escalates, and this is one of the more intense stories I’ve read in a while, the reader understands the depth of An Sue’s faith as a child as well as the peeling away of that faith as her sons’ ideals and philosophy replace it – or at least so it seems.
As An Sue makes some drastic and brave decisions to protect her sons and the community in which they are involved, it appears that the two ideals competing for her allegiance become less and less competitive. Wright uses both ideals to lead An Sue down a path of ultimate sacrifice. As An Sue is “buried in the depth of her star”, Wright brilliantly gets the reader to wonder what or who this star is and he brilliantly gives no definitive answer.
This story is included in my copy of The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. I read it when I selected the Queen of Diamonds for Week 9 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be seen here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.