Native Son

Native Son Bigger Thomas has been shaped by various forces. Forces that have changed the life completely for Bigger Thomas. In Native Son, Bigger Thomas seems to be composed of a mass of disruptive emotions rather than a rational mind joined by a soul. 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 face. In the first book, Wright tells the reader these were the rhythms of his life: indifference and violence; periods of abstract brooding and periods of intense desire; moments of silence and moments of anger — like water ebbing and flowing from the tug of a far-away, invisible force (p.31).

Bigger is controlled by forces that he cannot tangibly understand. Bigger’s many acts of violence are, in effect, a quest for a soul. He desires an identity that is his alone. Both the white and the black communities have robbed him of dignity, identity, and individuality. The human side of the city is closed to him, and for the most part Bigger relates more to the faceless mass of the buildings and the mute body of the city than to another human being.

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His mother’s philosophy of suffering to wait for a later reward is equally stagnating — to Bigger it appears that she is weak and will not fight to live. Her religion is a blindness; but she needs to be blind in order to survive, to fit into a society that would drive a seeing person mad. All of the characters that Bigger says are blind are living in darkness because the light is too painful. Bigger wants to break through that blindness, to discover something of worth in himself, thinking that all one had to do was be bold, do something nobody ever thought of. The whole things came to him in the form of a powerful and simple feeling; there was in everyone a great hunger to believe that made them blind, and if he could see while others were blind, then he could get what he wanted and never be caught at it (p.102).

Just as Bigger later hides himself amidst the catacombs of the old buildings, many people hide themselves deep within their minds in order to bear the ordeal of life and the oppression of an uncaring society. But their blindness allows them something that Bigger cannot achieve: it allows these people to meld into the society that is the city, while Bigger must stand at the outside of that community alternately marvelling and hating the compromises of those within. Bigger is alone; he is isolated from every facet of human affection. Max tells the court that Bigger cannot kill because he himself is dead, and a person without empathy or sympathy, without the deep, steadying love of family or faith in anything. When he lashes out in violence it is in a way a search for what hurt him; he hurts others because it is a way of hiding that he is hurt and afraid.). If one considers life to be a period of growth and learning, recognition of self-worth and of the worth of others, then Bigger has not been given the chance to live.

Book Three is called Fate, and indeed Bigger seems to be controlled his entire life by ambivalent outside forces who could care less about him. He has been lied to until he believes the lies he tells himself. He has no place in society. His own mother believes in him no more than the billboard reading you can’t win that he sees each day outside his apartment. He has grown up in an environment where enormous rats fester in holes and water is a maybe situation, where meals are precarious and money is almost nonexistent, and where he is told time and time again that he has no worth, no dignity, no intelligence or creativity.

Is it any wonder that Bigger is violent? It seems more fantastic that all of the people around him are not. When he says, upon reading the paper No! Jan didn’t help me! He didn’t have a damned thing to do with it! I — I did it! (p.283) he is clinging to the act of violence he performed as an affirmation of self. He is isolated by a blind society, he is loved by no one, he has never been given a chance to explore who and what he is. His attitude of why care? is rather to be expected, predicted, than wondered over. He is not a good person, he is not noble or true or brilliantly creative. But he has the capacity for all of those things, and has not been given the chance to fulfill them.

His crime of violence is as much the crime of the people around him, who stifled his soul and nourished the other, baser side of him that was the only way he had of self-expression.

Native Son

Native Son: Character Actions Defines Their Individual
Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son, consisted of various main and
supporting character to deliver an effective array of
personalities and expression. Each character’s actions defines
their individual personalities and belief systems. The main
character of Native Son, Bigger Thomas has personality traits
spanning various aspect of human nature including actions
motivated by fear, quick temper, and a high degree of
intelligence.Bigger, whom the novel revolves around, portrays
various personality elements through his actions.

Many of his action suggest an overriding response to fear, which
stems from his exposure to a harsh social climate in which a clear
line between acceptable behavior for white’s and black’s exists.

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His swift anger and his destructive impulses stem from that fear
and becomes apparent in the opening scene when he fiercely attacks
a huge rat. The same murderous impulse appears when his secret
dread of the delicatessen robbery impels him to commit a vicious
assault on his friend Gus. Bigger commits both of the brutal
murders not in rage or anger, but as a reaction to fear. His
typical fear stems from being caught in the act of doing
something socially unacceptable and being the subject of
punishment. Although he later admits to Max that Mary Dalton’s
behavior toward him made him hate her, it is not that hate which
causes him to smother her to death, but a feeble attempt to evade
the detection of her mother. The fear of being caught with a
white woman overwhelmed his common sense and dictated his
actions. When he attempted to murder Bessie, his motivation came
from intense fear of the consequences of “letting” her live.

Bigger realized that he could not take Bessie with him or leave
her behind and concluded that killing her could provide her only
The emotional forces that drive Bigger are conveyed by means other
than his words. Besides reactions to fear, his actions demonstrate
an extremely quick temper and destructive impulse as an integral
part of his nature. Rage plays a key part in his basic nature,
but does not directly motivate the murders he commits. Rage does
not affect Bigger’s intelligence and quick thinking and it becomes
evident during the interview with Briton. The detective makes
Bigger so angry that the interrogation becomes a game to Bigger,
a game of logic and wills, of playing the stupid negro, and
telling the man exactly what he wants to hear. The game Bigger
plays during the interrogation shows his great intelligence and
ability to think quickly on his feet. Bigger also displayed his
intelligence in the creation of the ransom note. Using the
situation to his advantage, Bigger wrote a ransom note to extort
Mary’s parents for money. To make the note even more convincing
and to dissuade blame from himself, Bigger signs the note with the
communist symbol of a hammer and sickle.

Although the book revolves around Bigger he possesses few good
qualities, which get his horrendous actions negate, making him an
anti-hero. He possess the violent tendencies to commit rape,
extortion of the dead girls parents, robbing, and killing innocent
people. These traits do not portray a simple victim of
circumstance, but a habitual criminal acting out against a
society. While Bigger dominates the story, his appalling actions
make him a man that the reader can not look upon as a hero. In
fact the author punishes the anti-hero character by condemning him
One of the two most sympathetic characterizations of white persons
in the novel comes from the character of Jan Erlone, Mary Dalton’s
friend. He exhibits an enthusiastic personality and represents an
idealistic young organizer for the Communist party. Mary’s
parents and their servant Peggy distrust his motives. Bigger
initially expresses a distaste for “reds” when responding to Jan’s
friendly advances during their first meeting. While receiving
distrust from those around him, Jan retains a simple belief in the
equality for all men, regardless of social class or race.

Throughout Jan’s first meeting with Bigger, he regards Bigger with
the utmost respect. During the course of the night, Jan sits in
the front of the car with Bigger, eats with him, drinks with him,
and speaks to him as an equal. Those actions of equality portray
more than a decent man, it shows that Jan’s character possesses a
strong sense of morality and honesty. Jan is also characterized
by other heroic traits, forgiveness and understanding. As an
interesting twist of fate, Jan gets Bigger an attorney, and
demonstrates that he could forgive Bigger for implicating him for
The second sympathetic white character, Boris A. Max, portrays the
Communist lawyer whom Jan brings to help Bigger. Max’s legal
knowledge and his mastery of tactics are constantly in evidence.

By taking Bigger’s case pro-bono, Max shows two aspects of his
nature, charity and a need to defend the oppressed. By accepting
the task of Bigger’s defense, he makes it painfully clear that his
true intent originates from a desire to protect the image of the
communist party. That passion does not adversely affect his skill
and he diligently works to protect his client from injustice. The
moment Bigger accepts Max’s offer to represent him, Max protects
his client’s interests and insists upon his rights. Max
constantly demonstrates his intelligence, in his pursuit of
justice and a fair trial for his client Bigger Thomas.

The members of the Dalton family represent the naivet of whites
to the realities of social oppression. Mr. and Mrs. Dalton
attempt to correct their wrongs by donating to various black
charities. They create a boy’s club, donating ping pong tables
and various other impractical items. In doing so, they do not
make any personal sacrifices and basically give only minimal
personal involvement to the cause. They have not developed a
genuine understanding of the economic and social conditions of the
black people. Mr. and Mrs. Dalton are naive about their lack of
impact on the social and economic situations of the blacks that
they attempt to help. The author does not make them callous or
bigoted. Their daughter, the wild twenty-one year old Mary
Dalton, lacks the refinement of her parents. She wants to treat
others as equals, but her actions make Bigger uncomfortable and he
grows to resent her for her actions.

Bigger’s family and Bessie Mears represent, the “beaten” negros.

They have all accepted the that their lives will never have the
possibility for improvement. They feel doomed to remain in the
pits of the slums. A lost outlook on life represents Bessie’s
most outstanding personality trait. Through her self-awareness
she reiterates in multiple references that she exists as a “lost”
soul. Bessie circumstances prevent her from going any farther in
her life. She briefly escapes with the use of alcohol which
Bigger provides her in exchange for “love”. An aura of death
surrounds her even before Bigger murders her. Like Bessie,
Bigger’s mother appears trapped on a one way street going nowhere.

An interesting aspect of Native Son develops from the many levels
of conflict occurring simultaneously in the book. On a
superficial level personal conflicts arise, but deeper conflicts
about race, social status, and political view points drive these
superficial conflicts. When the book opens Bigger has an argument
with his mother, and then his sister, about getting a job.

Confrontations like these happen constantly throughout this novel,
but neither Bigger nor the other characters grow from these
conflicts. The characters act out in rage due to stress caused by
social circumstances. Bigger’s violent temper gets him into
various conflicts with his gang, a man on the roof whom he
attacks, and the fellow who owns the pool hall.

Although these actions demonstrate acts of rage, they do not
portray the true motivation for Bigger’s actions. The cause of
Bigger personal conflicts stem his fear of repercussion for his
actions as a black in a white dominated society. His fear of the
consequences of being discovered with a drunk white woman, drive
Bigger Thomas to smother Mary Dalton. This fear arose because of
the non physical barriers, set up by society, between white and
black people. This tension made Bigger angry while he was forced
to secretly drive Jan and Mary around in the car and finally made
him snap. Like Bigger, the entire city demonstrates conflicts
based upon fear brought about by racial segregation. During the
progress of the man hunt, blacks and whites go at each others
throats. These various conflicts all stem from fear and racial
hatred. Although Richard Wright portrays the segregation of the
blacks, he does not omit the segregation of various social groups
such as the communists. In contrast, Jan and Max’s efforts to
save Bigger stem from a struggle for equality. They too feel the
constraints of oppression, but have a philosophy and social
Frustration and hopelessness develop as major themes of the
story. When Bigger and his friend Gus watch a sky writing plane,
Bigger expresses frustration in his statement “I could fly one of
them things if I had a chance.” Discussing the impossibility of
accomplishment in the white-controlled world, Bigger expresses
hopelessness, saying, “They don’t let us do nothing.” When Gus
reminds Bigger that they have always known this, Bigger agrees,
but insists that he cannot accustom himself to it. “Every time I
think about it,” he says, “I feel like somebody’s poking a red-hot
iron down my throat.” Today a good example of the same type of
frustration can be seen on the various music videos done by black
artists. These video portray, poor education and a lack of
Oppression, hate, and the separatism between whites and blacks
also arises as a main theme. Bigger represents the oppressed but
rebellious black, in contrast the Dalton’s represent naive whites,
and Jan and Max represent the oppressed communists. These various
characters hate each other without comprehend the underlying
social cause. Only the oppressed groups come to help and forgive
each other by the end of the novel, while the oppressors still
asking for bitter vengeance. The separatism become obvious while
Bigger when sits in the car with Mary and Jan. He feels afraid
and uncomfortable being treated like an equal and being allowed to
sit near them. This separatism also made his oppressors blindly
ignorant of the realities of social oppression. Separatism
affects both sides of the color line. The characters consider
each other as separate entities, never interacting on an equal
basis. Social ignorance allows the scapegoating of Bigger, to
vent the anger and rage built up from by many years of tension
between the races. A good example of separatism and oppression in
our area shows up in the conflicts between Whites and Cubans.

Arguments about English as the official language as the official
language of the US represent the manifestations of this conflict.

A notable theme that the author portrays through Bigger’s actions
come from the true meaning of freedom to the oppressed. Bigger’s
discovered “freedom” came to him in two instances, in both cases
while committing murder. With the death of Mary Dalton, Bigger
starts to realize that for the first time he has gone against the
law. Breaking the proverbial barrier and the proper limits of
what a black man can do in society he is no longer controlled or
restrained by another mans rules. This idea expands to note that
when Bigger himself defines the rules, he makes himself free.

Interestingly serial killers in our society have multiplied, a
common trait that they all possess is abuse in their early
lifetime. Perhaps they act out of the same misguided need for
freedom that Bigger found when committing murder.

Bigger, his family, and Bessie all feel the affects of separatism
and oppression. Richard Wright believes in the immorality of
oppression. He uses his book as a tool to vent his frustration,
at the world that segregates negros. His characters, themes and
conflicts probably originate from his own experience of
separatism. By using such a wide range of characters, he gives
the readers who are not black an insight into the horrifically
desperate situations many poor blacks experience.

Bigger’s actions toward Jan and Mary portray his resignation to
the social inequity of the color barrier. He acts simply, as a
subservient “yessah”. It appears the author believes the true
wall of separation between whites and blacks is an almost
Jan and Max base their decisions on the equality of man. Having a
moral basis for action leads them to have a means to deal with
oppression and the ability to hope. In contrast, Bigger accepts
separatism as an immutable condition, and rebels against it by
committing crimes. Bigger receives punishment for his actions.

The author would appears to support socialist concepts as the
proper rebellion against oppression. He seems to believe in the
equality of men and the value of demonstrating it in everyday
Native Sun: Themes of Racism, Violence, And Social Injustice
In his most famous novel, “Native Sun”, Richard Wright successfully
develops three major themes: Racism, violence as a personal necessity, and
social injustice. He has captured the powerful emotions and suffering, the
frustrations and yearnings, the restlessness and hysteria, of all the
Bigger Thomas’s in this grippingly dramatic novel.

Wright shows to us, through Bigger Thomas, how bad things were for the
black race. He tells how Bigger was raised in a oneroom apartment, living
with his family and rats. The rent was very high, and his mother was barely
able to pay it. Bigger’s education like most blacks at that time , did not
exceed the eighth grade. Without the help of the Relief Agency, Bigger and
his family may not have been able to keep up much longer financially.

Bigger had no money, except for the spare change his mother gives him, so
he would usually just hang out at the pool hall, which was in the black
Bigger used to pull little jobs with his friends, but all of them
including Bigger wanted to pull off a big job, by robbing Blum’s store.

They were afraid though, of getting caught for robbing a white man. They
know the police don’t care about blacks, and would probably accuse them of
many more crimes. Luckily for Bigger, though, the Relief Agency did find
him a job with the Daltons. When Bigger went to the Daltons house for the
first time, he brought his gun, because it made him feel equal to the white
When Bigger got to the Daltons house, he didn’t know whether to enter
the house by the front or back door. He looks for a way to the back, and
realizes the only way in is through the front door. As he rang the
doorbell, he felt very disturbed. And when he started talking to Mr.

Dalton, Mr. Dalton asks Bigger about his past crimes, which made Bigger
feel pressured. Then Mary Dalton walked in and asked Bigger if he was in a
union, if he knew about communism, and then still more questions, until her
father finally asked her to leave the room. Bigger was afraid that this
little brat was going to get him to lose his job. Then he met Peggy, a
maid, Who asks Bigger all these questions, like he could understand what
she was talking about. Then Peggy showed Bigger the car he was to drive the
family in. When He saw the black car, he thought about how the whites own
everything. When Bigger meets Miss Dalton, she talks to other people about
him while he is standing next to her, like he was the third person.

Richard Wright also shows how Bigger is caught up by forces he could
neither understand, or control. Bigger found a sense of freedom and
identity in acts of violence. Bigger mainly disliked his family because he
feels sorry for them. And when Bigger picks on his friend, Gus, it is
mainly out of fear of robbing Mr. Plum.

When Bigger, Mary, and Jan get drunk, Bigger takes Mary home and
accidentally kills her while trying to shut her up so her mom wouldn’t know
she was drunk. Then, after Mary is dead, and her mom is gone, Bigger shoves
Mary’s Body in her trunk, and carry’s her downstairs. Then Bigger tries to
shove Mary’s body in the furnace, but her head won’t fit. So, he takes the
hatchet and cuts her head off, throwing it as well as her body, in the
After everyone found out Bigger had killed Mary, Bigger ran to Bes
sie, his girlfriend’s, house. When he arrived, he ended up telling her
everything that had happened. Bigger, after telling Bessie everything,
realizes he can’t leave her alone with this knowledge. So, Bigger and
Bessie, ran to an abandoned building, where Bigger figured how hard it
would be to keep going with Bessie along. Bigger felt he had to kill her to
keep her quiet and keep her off his back, so he did.

Richard Wright also showed us the social injustice blacks had. When
Bigger got caught by the police and was jailed, he received constant
harassment. He was faced with a choice of either confess, or else be
lynched by a white crowd, which shows the violence of whites towards
blacks. At the trial Bigger was tried unlawfully. For instance: When
Buckley, the man prosecuting Bigger, tells Bigger to reenact the murder.

And throughout the trial, there was name calling in the newspapers, and at

Native Son

In Native Son, by Richard Wright, the main character
is 20 year old Bigger Thomas. Growing up poor, uneducated,
and angry at the whole world, it is almost obvious that
Bigger is going to have a rough life. Anger, frustration,
and violence are habits for him. He is an experienced
criminal, and unable to handle with his wild mood swings,
Bigger often explodes in fits of crazy, aggressive outrage.
Bigger has grown up with the opinion that he simply has no
control over his life. In his mind, he cant ever be
anything more than an unskilled, low-wage laborer. He is
forced to take a job as a chauffeur for the Daltons to avoid
having to watch his own family starve.

Strangely, Mr. Dalton is Bigger’s landlord; he owns
most of the company that manages the apartment building
where Bigger’s family lives. Mr. Dalton and other wealthy
real estate men are robbing the poor, black tenants on the
South Side. What they do is refuse to rent apartments in
other neighborhoods to black tenants. By doing this, they
create an fake housing shortage on the South Side, and that
causes high rents. Mr. Dalton likes to think of himself as a
generous man just because he gives money to black schools
and offers jobs to poor, timid black boys like Bigger.
However, his generosity is only a way for him to get rid of
the guilty conscience he has for cheating the poor black
residents of Chicago.

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Mary Dalton, the daughter of Bigger’s Mr. Dalton,
angers Bigger when she ignores the rules of society when
it comes to relationships between white women and black men.
On his first day on the job, Bigger drives Mary out to meet
her boyfriend, Jan. One thing leads to another, and all
three of them get drunk. Mary is too drunk to make it to her
bedroom on her own, so Bigger helps her up the stairs. Just
as he places Mary on her bed, Mary’s blind mother, Mrs.
Dalton, enters the bedroom. Bigger is scared that Mary will
give away that he is in the room, so he covers her face with
a pillow and accidentally smothers her to death. Unaware
that Mary is dead, Mrs. Dalton prays and then leaves the
room. Bigger tries to cover his crime by burning Mary’s body
in the Daltons’ furnace. Then attempts to frame Jan for
Mary’s disappearance.

A comment by Bigger’s girlfriend, Bessie, gives him the
idea to try to collect ransom money from the Daltons. He
writes a ransom letter and signs it Red, then talks Bessie
into taking part in the whole plan. But, when Mary’s bones
are found in the furnace, Bigger and Bessie run away to an
empty building. Bigger is scared that he is going to get
caught because of Bessie, so he rapes her and then he beats
her to death with a brick. Everyone is after Bigger to try
to catch him and bring him to jail. He escapes the huge
manhunt as long as he can, but he is eventually captured
after a huge shoot-out. The press and the public decide his
guilt and his punishment before his trial even begins. All
the people just assume that Bigger raped Mary before killing
her and burned her body to hide the evidence. The white
authorities and mob use Bigger as an excuse to terrorize the
entire South Side neighborhood.

Jan is heartbroken over Mary’s death, but he finally
understands that he is partly guilty too. He realizes that
he was wrong to expect Bigger to act differently to him than
to any other white man. Jan also realizes that he violated
all of the rules that apply to race relations. And the
fact that he did that, angered and shamed Bigger. Jan gets
his friend, Boris A. Max, to defend Bigger for free. He
tries to save Bigger from the death penalty by arguing that
what Bigger did was an affect of the environment he was in.
Max warns the public that there will be more men like Bigger
if America does not put an end to the huge cycle of hate and
punishment. But, even after the trial, Bigger is sentenced
to death.

Book Reports

Native Son

Native Son Richard Wright is the author of the novel, Native Son. By writing the novel, he wanted to awaken America to the realities of the relationship between blacks and whites in the controversial 1930s. When he wrote this novel, it caused many disputes among Americans. Many people thought that some of the issues Wright included in his novel were not appropriate to write about. Richard Wright believed that even the bad parts of America should be seen, though. This story takes place in Chicago, Illinois in the late 1930s.

The main character is Bigger Thomas. He is a twenty year old black man who lives in a one-room apartment with his mother, sister, and brother. The part of town they live in is infested with crime, and most of the buildings are dilapidated. Bigger believes that he could never get far in life because of his being an inferior black man in a”white” world. Bigger wants to help support his family, so he decides to apply for a job as a chauffeur. He is hired by a millionaire named Henry Dalton, who allows Bigger to live in his house. Mr.

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Dalton and his wife, who is blind, always try to help their employees succeed in life. Everything goes well for a while until one night when Mr. Daltons teenage daughter, Mary, gets drunk. Bigger carries Mary to her room after she falls down while climbing the stairs. While Bigger is in Marys room, Mrs.

Dalton comes to check in on her. Although Mrs. Dalton wouldnt be able to see Bigger in Marys room, he is afraid that Mary might make a noise and Mrs. Dalton might think that he is raping her daughter. In his terror, Bigger covers Marys face with a pillow and accidentally smothers her.

When Bigger sees that he killed Mary, he freaks out, chops up her body with an ax, and hides it in the furnace downstairs. Although he acts out of fear and doesnt know what he is doing, Bigger still feels a sense of control that hes never felt before. Bigger leads everyone to believe that Marys Communist friend, Jan, kidnapped her. Nobody suspects Bigger until one day, when the remains of her body are found in the furnace. He gets his girlfriend, Bessie, involved to help him get money and run away, but he kills her to avoid betrayal. Bigger is finally caught by the police and put on trial. During the course of the trial, he is amazed to find that Jan has forgiven him for all that he did.

He cant believe that a white man actually treats him like a human being. Bigger is convicted of murder and ultimately pays with his life to learn that all humans are equal. I love this book! It shows the true story of how hard it can be to live in a prejudiced society. This novel is full of suspense and is really able to stir up controversies within oneself. I would definitely recommend this book to people.


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