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Native Son

Essay by review  •  November 1, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,231 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,131 Views

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Bigger Thomas as America's Native Son In the novel the Native Son, the author Richard Wright explores racism and oppression in American society. Wright skillfully merges his narrative voice into Bigger Thomas so that the reader can also feel how the pressure and racism affects the feelings, thoughts, self-image, and life of a Negro person. Bigger is a tragic product of American imperialism and exploitation in a modern world. Bigger embodies one of humankind's greatest tragedies of how mass oppression permeates all aspects of the lives of the oppressed and the oppressor, creating a world of misunderstanding, ignorance, and suffering. The novel is loaded with a plethora of imageries of a hostile white world. Wright shows how white racism affects the behavior, feelings, and thoughts of Bigger. "Everytime I think about it I feel like somebody's poking a red-hot iron down my throat...We live here and they live there. We black and they white. They got things and we ain't. They do things and we can't...I feel like I'm on the outside the world peeping in through a knot-hole in the fence..." (20). Bigger's sense of constriction and of confinement is very palpable to the reader. Wright also uses a more articulate voice to accurately describe the oppressive conditions of a Negro person. An anonymous black cellmate, a university student cries out, "You make us live in such crowded conditions...that one out of every ten of us is insane...you dump all stale foods into the Black Belt and sell them for more than you can get anywhere else...You tax us, but you wont build hospitals...the schools are so crowded that they breed perverts...you hire us last and fire us first..." (318). Bigger's sense of constriction by the white world is so strong that he has no doubt that "something awful's going to happen to me..." (21). Nowhere in this novel can the reader see a greater example of Bigger's fear and sense of constriction than in the accidental death of Mary Dalton. The all-encompassing fear that the white world has bred in Bigger takes over when he is in Mary's room and in danger of being discovered by Mrs. Dalton. This internalized social oppression literally forces his hands to hold the pillow over Mary's face, suffocating her. Bigger believes that a white person would assume that he was in the room to rape the white girl. Bigger's violent reaction to fear is inevitable. When a person finds all outlets of expression and development either closed or severely constrained, like Bigger's, violence is often the instinctive reaction to oppression. The death of Mary symbolizes a tragic consequence of the white world's attempt to oppress another race. Fear and despair force Bigger to murder, and in the aftermath, he only feels rebellious and unremorseful. Bigger finds that the rebellion is exhilarating and liberating. This is a false sense of liberation because the murder only incurs more anger and prejudiced feelings among the white society. In retaliation, the white society is condemning more blacks by firing them, beating them, and constricting all aspects of their lives even more. In addition, the police are hunting Bigger down as if he is some kind of vermin, while public officials and newspapers blaspheme Bigger and his Negro race as "ape-like...and trouble making n-------" (324). This is a vicious cycle of how the oppressed will rebel against his oppressor and how the oppressor will retaliate with a stronger blow. No one will relent, and feelings of hate, misunderstanding, and prejudice multiply between the oppressed and oppressor. Wright also realizes how the oppressed can also become the oppressor. When Mary and Jan Erlone try to befriend Bigger, Bigger thinks that these white people "having helped to put him down...held him up now to look at him and be amused...and he felt an articulate hate..." towards them (76). Though this misunderstanding stems from the oppression that Bigger has endured from the white world, he too becomes just as prejudiced, ignorant, and hateful. Bigger is not receptive to their gesture of kindness. The chasm, which separates the two races, remains, and because of this division, it falsely allows one race to claim rightfulness and superiority over another race. The white world made Bigger and the mass of the Negro race suffer by confining them to the slums, denying them a proper education, and limiting all of their opportunities. Bigger is a victim of

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