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Wright's Use of Realism in Native Son

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Native Son, by Richard Wright, is categorized as a work of fiction, but the realism found between the covers sometimes breaches the line between fiction and non-fiction. By utilizing realism, Wright magnifies his main themes of Black oppression and fear in the Black Belt of Chicago. Realism in Native Son is found mainly found in the form of news articles from the time, but is also drawn from Wright's own experiences growing up.

In Wright's essay, "How Bigger Was Born," he tells of the many people who have come together to form the character of Bigger in his mind. For example, Bigger number four always said, "The white folks don't let us do nothing." A similar quote was said by Bigger in Book One: Fear: "They don't let us do nothing." By linking Bigger to a man in Wright's past, he allows the reader to delve into his recollection and so makes the novel more believable. Another instance of realism is the scene in which Bigger and Jack were engaging in promiscuous activities in the movie theatre - to put it politely. Wright does nothing to hide the thoughts that tend to dominate the male psyche, and so he exhibits the realism of everyday life without any inhibition. By taking quotations and actions from real life and keeping them in their true form, Wright keeps the novel realistic. His characters do and say things that actual people have done and said in the past. The writing contains the lives of many "Biggers," and in doing so it embodies a story that could have occurred in the 1940s.

Wright also draws the readers' minds to the past by linking Bigger's story to real headlining news stories. In "How Bigger Was Born," Wright mentions the Robert Nixon case. Robert Nixon was a black man with a similar past to Bigger. Nixon's life as a criminal began on a small scale; he was a robber in Chicago. What made his case unique was that his only weapon was a brick. From 1936 to 1938, Nixon murdered five women in Chicago and Los Angeles and injured one other. In June of 1939, he was sent to the electric chair after confessing to his crimes. Wright directly links Bigger and Nixon by having Bigger murder Bessie with a brick. The news stories Bigger is obsessed with in Native Son are largely based on the articles written about Nixon's trial. Descriptions and wording in the articles were sometimes lifted straight from the cover of The Chicago



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