Big Black Good Man, one of a series of short stories in the book Eight Men, Richard Wright clearly shows how black males were wrongly perceived by society in the mid-1900s. Olaf, the protagonist may deceive himself that he is not a racist, yet the readers quickly recognize him for "showing his true colors." Even at the end one is unsure whether or not Olaf recognizes the truth about himself.

The story starts out with Olaf reflecting about his sixtieth birthday while he is working in a hotel as a night porter. He defines himself as a typical man, married, owning a home, and finding pleasure in gardening, and is proud of being an open-minded, well-rounded person. Olaf believes that he is content with what he has achieved in his sixty years, yet this is questionable given his other thoughts. Olaf is one of those individuals who has difficulty facing reality. For example, he repeatedly tells himself that "money ain't everything and he is "satisfied" with his life (94). He refrains from being too self-retrospective for fear of what he will find as the truth.

The tranquil scene in the hotel totally changes when Jim, a huge "ebony giant," (96) comes looking for a room. Olaf is immediately overwhelmed by disdain and fear as his shallow, insolated world is disturbed. It is not just Jim's race, but the totality of his size, color and attitude that Olaf cannot handle. The way that he reacts to Jim demonstrates how Olaf sees others not by who they are as a person, but rather by their outward appearance.

Olaf attempts to persuade himself that he is not bigoted, "To Olaf men were men, and in his day, he'd worked and eaten and slept and fought with all kinds of men" (96) and he has difficulty understanding his fear, "Well, he didn't seem human" (96). His deceptive comments do not work. Now the truth comes out for the readers -- if not for Olaf -- concerning his real feelings about blacks, as he describes this arrival, who he never calls by a name, in terms of a non-human object or an animal: "...and the legs were like telephone poles...bending to get its buffalolike head under the door frame (96)...black cheeks spread, flat and broad, topping the wide and flaring nostrils....the lips were thick, pursed, parted...The black net was like a bull's (99).

At first one can give Olaf the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps if a huge, muscle-bound white man walked into the hotel he would have also reacted in a negative and fearful way. After all, he was very insecure about "how puny, how tiny, and how weak and how white he was" (96). Yet readers soon begin to realize that Jim is not a "beast" who will cause harm. Olaf's fears are all in his mind and based on his own personal irrational stereotypes and biases. Black men were supposed to be quiet and subservient in a white establishment. They were not to be gruff and loud and assertive, as Olaf saw this new arrival.

Olaf's prejudice is also…