Native Son: The Metamorphosis Of Bigger Thomas
Richard Wright’s Native Son explores the psychological corruption that racism had upon Bigger Thomas as it had on African-Americans in the 1930s. Wright conveys this through his use animalistic imagery and symbols to paint a world in which Bigger was robbed of identity, and dignity because of the forces of society.
Bigger’s loss of identity was portrayed in the beginning of Native Son, where the emerging depictions of stereotypes in society [both from white and black societies] drove him to search for a new identity. A clever way Wright depicts the unraveling of Bigger's identity was through the animalistic imagery of a rat. “The rat’s belly pulsed with fear. Bigger advanced a step and the rat emitted a long thin song of defiance, its black beady eyes glittering, its tiny four feet pawing air restlessly” (6). In this scene, the rat represents African-Americans, but more specifically, Bigger. Throughout the entire novel, Wright uses many subtle references to this impactful scene as a way of engraving upon the reader that Bigger was the rat; a defiant, fear-ridden animal. Examples of this can be seen on pages six, fifty-six, and two-hundred and seventy. “Eyes like two pools of black ink” (6), and “SonOfABitch” (56 and 270).
Throughout the novel, Wright illustrates the ways in which white racism forces African-Americans into a pressured and volatile state of mind. As Max argues, it becomes “inevitable” that African-Americans will
“Native Son” composed by Richard Wright was revolved into an American drama picture in 1986 by director Jerrold Freeman. This piece caused a lot of controversy on whether the protagonist, Bigger Thomas, is guilty or innocent in the unfortunate events that have occurred. The purpose of this argumentative essay is to examine Richard Wright’s film adaptation of Native Son and prove his innocence based on how society deceived and deprived African Americans, his living and social environment, and his fears.
Native Son by Richard Wright is about a black man, Bigger Thomas, who is becomes the chauffeur of the Daltons, a rich white family, and accidently kills the daughter, Mary. He attempts to cover his crime by putting the blame on someone else, but he is eventually caught and sentenced to death. Bigger deceives in an attempt avoid the consequences he knows the white world will deliver to him with and this deception contributes to Wright’s message of what racism does to the oppressed and additionally puts Wright’s communist party in a positive light.
Two rats and a cat are used as symbols in Richard Wright's Native Son. The rats, one found in an alley and the other in Bigger's apartment, symbolize Bigger. Mrs. Dalton's white cat represents white society, which often takes the form of a singular character. "Parallels are drawn between these animals and the characters they represent at key moments during the novel" (Kinnamon 118). These parallels help the reader identify with Bigger and understand why he acts the way he does. The animal imagery in Native Son explains some of Bigger's behavior and generates sympathy for Bigger and fear of whites.
Racism is an issue that blacks face, and have faced throughout history directly and indirectly. Ralph Ellison has done a great job in demonstrating the effects of racism on individual identity through a black narrator. Throughout the story, Ellison provides several examples of what the narrator faced in trying to make his-self visible and acceptable in the white culture. Ellison engages the reader so deeply in the occurrences through the narrator’s agony, confusion, and ambiguity. In order to understand the narrators plight, and to see things through his eyes, it is important to understand that main characters of the story which contributes to his plight as well as the era in which the story takes place.
In Richard Wright’s Native Son, the book is split into three books. The first 2 books focus mainly on the suspense and tensions rising within Bigger’s life and finally in the last book he dies. The dramatic conflict of Native Son takes place chiefly within the mind of Bigger Thomas, who lives in a world of whites, blacks , or reds. To Bigger all of life is conflict and issues that is defined by the color of your skin with the whites being higher up. The tensions within the book can be comparable to fire and ice as each element possess traits which can be seen as metaphors within the novel Native son by Richard Wright and his essay of “How Bigger was Born”.
Richard Wright’s “Native Son” Bigger shows us the short end of the stick of how it feels to be seen as a second-class citizen for being black. His speech talking about how he feels like a prisoner in this world just because he is black. (Wright P.17) This prison pain of Bigger in Wright’s novel shows how the negative effects of fear and discrimination affect minorities in our society. This discrimination just for existence is mirrored in the “Diary of Anne Frank” and “The Color of Water”. In the Diary of Anne Frank, spends two years of her life in an attic with her family and other Jewish people, hiding from the government trying to capture them just because they are Jewish. In “The Color of Water” Ruth McBride describes how the KKK was a huge part of her hometown. That whenever a car full of white hoods drove past, any African Americans in the store would run home, Ruth did the same thing, knowing her family was also in danger. (McBride P.58)
In the mid 1900’s, different parts of society struggled with power due to the idea of racial supremacy. The idea of a superior race lead to the racial oppression of blacks, which had deep and lasting effects on society. This can be seen in Native Son by Richard Wright. During this time, power was heavily dependent on race: a concept Bigger Thomas struggled with throughout the entire novel. This can be seen on Bigger’s journey to understand and grasp for power, and the lasting effects of racial oppression on not only himself, but the black community as a whole.
Throughout the novel, Wright uses both dialogue and narrative to move the plot forward. Through dialogue, Wright shows the interactions between Bigger and the other characters, which reveal the feelings and thoughts of others in order to give the reader a well-rounded perspective on the matter. Wright especially uses narrative throughout the plot to depict new settings, reveal Bigger’s first opinions of others, and also flow through Bigger’s thinking process. Because of this, the readers are able to better understand and relate to his emotions that may lead to his uncontrollable actions. In blending the use of dialogue and narrative, Wright takes the reader through Bigger’s interactions with other characters, and he also shows how these interactions affect Bigger’s later behavior in various situations.
Wright’s 1940 novel, Native Son had stirred up real controversy by shocking the sensibilities of both black and white America. Wright was inspired to make his readers feel the reality of race relations and that is how Native Son came about. Wright used his observances throughout the previous decade to sculpt the inherent challenges faced by the main character, Bigger Thomas, a 20-year old African American in the South side of Chicago. In a time, when the Great Depression was impacting the economy, the Dust Bowl was crossing the country, and an anti-lynching bill failed to pass in Congress, the context of history became an important facet of Wright’s creation of the film adaptation.
Bigger, a protagonist and controversial character in The Native Son, made a number of mistakes and he was indeed very much responsible for his actions. Bigger Thomas, a 20 year old who lives in poverty in a one-bedroom apartment with his mother and two siblings, has experienced racism has whole life. Bigger grew up to believe that white people were better than the blacks and were to be treated better than the whites also; in result, Bigger became angry and when in fear he turned to violence.
In the beginning, when Bigger started working for the Dalton’s, he had to drive Mary Dalton, the daughter, to the University of Chicago. However, she wanted him to pick up her boyfriend, Jan, and head to a restaurant. When Bigger was in the car with Jan and Mary, “he was very conscious of his black skin...Jan and men like him” made Bigger feel insecure of who he was. (Wright 67) Even though Jan and Mary did not say anything that would insult his race, the presence of white people made him self-conscious. Being
“Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread”, this is a quote from the author of Native Son, Richard Wright (399). The quote speaks volumes of truth that should never be overlooked. It can be said that Bigger Thomas was destined for a mediocre life that could have ended him up in prison, although he eventually did. A plausible reason for his mediocrity was due to the fact that he did not know himself. On the other hand, Bigger Thomas may just be a product of his environment. A product of a system that subliminally did not want Bigger Thomas to succeed, and if this is true then a question is at hand. Did Bigger Thomas kill because of the system and because of the hate that he had or did the system force Bigger Thomas to kill?
In Native Son, Wright employs Naturalistic ideology and imagery, creating the character of Bigger Thomas, who seems to be composed of a mass of disruptive emotions rather than a rational mind joined by a soul. This concept introduces the possibility that racism is not the only message of the novel, that perhaps every person would feel as isolated and alone as Bigger does were he trapped in such a vicious cycle of violence and oppression. Bigger strives to find a place for himself, but the blindness he encounters in those around him and the bleak harshness of the Naturalistic society that Wright presents the reader with close him out as effectively as if they had shut a door in his
When analyzing Bigger Thomas, Richard Wright’s protagonist in the novel Native Son, one must take into consideration the development of his characterization. Being a poor twenty-year-old Black man in the south side of Chicago living with his family in a cramped one- bedroom apartment in the 1930’s, the odds of him prospering in life were not in his favor. Filled with oppression, violence, and tragedy, Bigger Thomas’ life was doomed from the moment he was born. Through the novel, Bigger divulges his own dreams to provide for his family and to be anything but a “nobody.” Although Bigger struggled to fight through obstacles to pursue his dreams for the future, his chase for a better life came to an abrupt
Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son, depicts the life of the general black community in Chicago during the 1930’s. Though African Americans had been freed from slavery, they were still burdened with financial and social oppression. Forced to live in small, unclean quarters, eat foods on the verge of going bad, and pay entirely too much for both, these people struggled not to be pressured into a dangerous state of mind (Bryant). All the while, they are expected to act subserviently before their oppressors. These conditions rub many the wrong way, especially Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of the story. Though everyone he is surrounded by is going through all the same things that he is, growing up poor and uneducated has made Bigger angry at the whole world. You can see this anger in everything he does, from his initial thoughts to his final actions. Because of this, Bigger Thomas almost seems destined to find trouble and meet a horrible fate. Wright uses these conventions of naturalism to develop Bigger’s view of the white community(). With all of these complications, Bigger begins to view all white people as an overwhelming force that drags him to his end. Wright pushes the readers into Bigger’s mind, thoroughly explaining Bigger’s personal decay. Even Wright himself says that Bigger is in fact a native son, just a “product of American culture and the violence and racism that suffuse it” (Wright).