by Richard Wright
Mr. Olin and Harrison
Mr. Olin and Harrison are the two people involved with Richard’s unintentional Fight Club experience. One day out of the blue, Mr. Olin tells Richard that Harrison (who he barely knew) wants to fight him. This is a big fat lie, and it turns out that Harrison’s boss is saying the same thing to Harrison about Richard.
What follows is a surreal episode where Mr. Olin and his buddies keep badgering Richard and Harrison and trying to get them to fight. They make Richard carry a knife even though he doesn’t want it, saying, "I thought you had some sense! Are you going to just let that nigger cut your heart out? His boss gave him a knife to use against you! Take this knife, nigger, and stop acting crazy!" (1.12.215).
Wait, who’s acting crazy here?
Okay, that’s pretty strange. But it gets worse when Mr. Olin offers Richard five dollars to fight Harrison. Suddenly Harrison is spoiling for a fight, and all for the sake of five measly dollars. The two men even make a kind of pact to fake the fight, but the whole situation frustrates them so much that they end up beating the tar out of each other anyway.
So, what’s going on with this bizzaro fight? As usual, Wright uses individual situations (and characters) to illustrate universal problems. Here, Mr. Olin represents white men who manipulate black people and turn them against one another, just like he did with Richard and Harrison. And Harrison, like so many other black people in the story, is so eager to sell his dignity that he practically gives it away.