The language of disease suffuses Richard Wright’s A Father’s Law, functioning as a metaphor for systemic corruption. However, for Marie Wiggins, the novel’s Virgin Mary figure, Wright’s metaphoric disease becomes literal. Marie suffers from congenital syphilis, which she inherited from her father. In rendering disease as patrilineal, Wright seems to criticize corrupt municipal and spiritual fathers. However, finally Wright puts the onus on the Marian figure to maintain familial and social bonds. Thus, what looks like female veneration actually serves as scapegoating: in taking on the role of the sacred, Marie also takes on the role of ultimate sin.


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