Native Son By Right Richard Wright marked the beginning of a new era in black fiction. He was one of the first American writers of his time to confront his readers with the effects of racism. Wright had a way of telling his reader about his own life through his writing. He is best known for his novel, Native Son, which is deeply rooted in his personal life and the times in which he lived. This paper will discuss this outstanding American writer, his highly acclaimed novel, Native Son, and how his life influenced his writing. Richard Nathaniel Wright, was born on September 4, 1908 in Roxie, Mississippi. His father was a sharecropper and his mother a schoolteacher.
In search for better employment his father moved the family to Memphis, Tennessee. While in Memphis, his father worked as a night porter in a hotel and his mother worked as a cook for a Caucasian family. Shortly after their move to Memphis, Wrights father deserted his family. His mother then tried to find any work she could find to support her family. Then, at the age of seven his mother became ill and was unable to financially support her family. As a result, the family had to move to Jackson, Mississippi to live with relatives. Wright remained in Jackson until 1925 (Walker, 13).
In 1925, Wright left Jackson and headed as far as his money could take him, and that was Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis was the exact same city in which his father had taken his family to find a better life and where he abandoned them. Wrights first trip to Memphis ended in disappointment, desertion, and deprivation. While there Wright found work as a messenger for an optical company. He lived in Memphis for approximately two years. During that time, he witnessed the deep and violent South which eventually would permanently scar him for life. Margaret Walker wrote: I am convinced that the best of Richard Wrights fiction grew out of the first nineteen years of his life. All he ever wrote of great strength and terrifying beauty must be understood in this light.
His subjects and themes, his folk references and history, his characters and places come from the South of his childhood and adolescence. His morbid interest in violence-lynching, rape, and murder-goes back to the murky twilight of a southern past. Out of this racial nightmare marked with racial suffering, poverty, religious fanaticism and sexual confusion emerge the five long stories in Uncle Toms Children. (Walker 43) The violent impression of Southern racism marked Wrights personality and literature. As a result, he would spend his entire life struggling to express the importance for men to reject the stereotypic notions of race, class, creed, or any other prejudice and to accept human value that honor the human spirit and release intelligence. It was Wrights first nineteen years in the South that opened up his most powerful and passionate writing (Walker 43).
In 1927, at the age of nineteen Wright migrated to Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, Wright found a job a as Post Office Clerk and at the same time he continued to self-educate himself by reading books, magazines, and newspapers. While in Chicago he became interested in Communism Issues. The interest came as a result of his concern with the social roots of racial oppression. In 1932, Wright joined the Communist party.
He was a party activist in Chicago and New York. Wrights involvement with the Communist party became the subject of most of his fiction writings. After he broke away from the party his writings were centered around it. Wrights years in Chicago are often considered his maturation years, which were years of growing maturity and preparing for an illustrious future (Metzger 608). Wrights career as a writer basically began in the 1930s. In 1930, he wrote his first novel, Lawd Today.
His novel, Lawd Today, however was not published until after his death. His first published work was, Uncle Toms Children: Five Long Stories, which consists of stories that attack the racial discrimination and bigotry that Wright encountered as a youth. Throughout Wrights career he published many outstanding works. Among his works included: five novels, two autobiographies, two books of short stories, four nonfiction books and one collection of essays. Wrights major influence began when he published, Native Son , in 1940. Richard Wrights most notable and highly acclaimed novel is Native Son.
Richard Wright contemplated for a while before he decided to write a novel in which a Negro, Bigger Thomas, would become a symbolic figure of American life. The novel is divided into sections entitled: fear, flight, and fate. Each section is used as a way to chart the changes in the main characters, Bigger Thomas, mind. Native Son, is the story of, Bigger Thomas, a poor young black man who had misinterpreted myths and stereotypes about the racist society in which he lived and accidentally murders a wealthy white women. At the novels end, Bigger must face the consequences of his actions, and is imprisoned and sentenced to death.
Native Son is “considered both a psychological melodrama and protest novel, that candidly exposes the pent-up hatred and bitterness of the oppressed black American.” (Stine 415). The first section of Native Son, is entitled Fear. In this portion of the book, we are introduced to the main character, Bigger Thomas, who is a full-blown juvenile delinquent. Throughout the first section, he is ruled by images he is unable to control. Bigger is hired by Mr. Dalton to be his live-in chauffeur.
Biggers first task is to drive Mr. Daltons daughter, Mary to a lecture at the university. On their way to the lecture, Mary tells Bigger that they are not going to the lecture and to go pick up Jan. Jan Erlone is Marys communist lover. Throughout the night, Bigger is frightened by Marys and Jans insistence to treat him as an equal.
Bigger has this reaction because he isnt used to being treated equally by someone of the opposite race. At the end of the night, Mary is drunk, and after driving her home he must carry her up to her room. When Marys mother, who is blind, enters Marys room, Bigger accidentally smothers Mary while trying to keep her from telling her mother that he is in the room. Bigger tries to cover up Marys death by burning her body in a furnace. Bigger then creates a scheme to extort money from her parents by pretending to have kidnapped her. Bigger does that by trying to pen the blame on Jan, because he is a member of the Communist party (Wright). The second section of Native Son is entitled Flight. In the beginning of this book Marys bones are discovered by Britten, the police detective.
At this point, Bigger is on the run from the authorities. While on the run, Bigger brings his girlfriend, Bessie, along. Bigger didnt want to take any chances leaving her, since she was the only person who knew about the murder of Mary. However, Bigger ends up killing Bessie, because he thinks she will slow him down. Eventually, he is captured by the police and has to face the consequences of his actions (Wright). The third section of Native Son is titled Fate. At the beginning of this section, we see Bigger awaiting his destiny, which is death.
At this point he has lost all hope and is ready to accept the consequences. While in jail, Bigger is visited by Rev. Hammond, his mothers pastor. Rev Hammond tries to get Bigger to see that the only thing he can do now is trust God. Even though, Bigger isnt interested in what Rev.
Hammond has to say, he accepts the cross that he gives him to wear around his neck. Biggers mother comes to the jail to see him, but embarrasses him by the way she begs Mrs. Dalton not to let her son die. Also, in this section of the book we are introduced to Buckeley, the states prosecutin …