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Symbolism In Richard Wright's Native Son

Decent Essays
Richard Wright’s Native Son explores the psychological corruption that racism had upon Bigger Thomas as it did 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 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. “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).
All 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 progresses towards becoming “inevitable” that African-Americans will react with violence and hatred, like Bigger.
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