Native Son is a story by American writer Richard Wright, which was written in 1940. The story is about Bigger Thomas, a growing black man who existed in absolute lack in a bad neighborhood in the southern part of Chicago. Without apologizing for Bigger’s violations, Wright presents an inextricable link of cause and effect. Boris Maks, a lawyer for Bigger, claims that it is impossible to find a way out of this situation for any black American. This is due to the fact that black people are very susceptible to the influence of society, which perceived them negatively for a significant period of American history. This essay aims to determine the book’s central theme, consider the main characters and symbols, in the essence of which the author has laid a specific meaning.
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Richard Wright’s Native Son is similar to Harriet Beetcher-Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Harriet Beetcher Stowe, in her work, similarly raises the topic of injustice towards black people in America. White people support a justice system in which several punitive measures will be developed to combat crime against black people (Peffley & Mondak 682). Based on these works, it is evident that racism is an acute problem for the American population. “Racism is neither an accidental nor inevitable process” (Miller & Garran 27). In 1940 racism was relevant, but this problem has not been solved even in modern times. In addition, the issue of racism has become more acute and requires attention.
The main character of the work is a young black man Bigger, who killed two women, for which he was later sentenced to death. His actions give a new movement, but the actual plot involves Bigger’s reaction to his surroundings and the crime. The author has endowed the hero with various feelings that he wants to express throughout the novel, but it is difficult for him to find the words. In addition to the lack of suitable words, Bigger does not even have time to express everything he keeps in his soul.
Mary Dalton is a wealthy white girl who holds extremely left-wing views. She is sympathetic to the Communists and meets with Jan, a well-known organizer of the Communist Party. She tries to obey her parents’ wishes for a while and leaves for Detroit. “Oh, Bigger, I’m going to Detroit at nine in the morning…” (Wright 72). Mary plans to leave the house the day after the decision was made to hire Bigger as a driver. Under the trick of the university meeting, she forces Bigger to take her to a session with Jen. Mary gets very drunk, and Bigger has to accompany her to her room in her parents’ house. Mrs. Dalton enters Mary’s room, and Bigger, worried that mother will find him, covers Mary’s face with a pillow, and this kills her. Mary’s death is described at the very beginning of the book, but this does not exclude her further presence throughout the novel. In moments of emotion, Bigger remembers Mary and how he killed her.
Jan is Mary’s young man, and also an active communist. Even though Bigger wants to frame Jan, Jan is still trying to help him, using this situation to show people that black people cannot control their destinies as simply as white people. Jan was already looking to understand black people to organize them according to the communist principle against the rich, such as Mr. Dalton. Unfortunately, Jan cannot do it, but he understands that he can help Bigger. The author shows readers Jan as a young man who wants to change the world with a revolution. “We can’t have a revolution without ‘em” (Wright 74). However, before he can do this, he will have to understand the dark-skinned man much more than he thinks.
The symbolism in the work of the Native son is traced in the presence of a rat in the position, which is a parallel with the main character Bigger. “Put that box in front of the hole so he can’t get out!” (Wright 16). Bigger is “driven” by the topic of racism into a cage like a rat that is forced to live in a cage. Another symbol is a white cat, which is a reflection of white-skinned people. A cat is a more prestigious animal than a rat, emphasizing both symbols’ weight and significance.
In conclusion, this work aims to draw the reader’s attention to the problem of racism and racial discrimination that is still relevant to this day. The author clearly shows that this problem bothers him, reflecting it in his characters, their actions and consequences. In addition, the author demonstrates the severity of the situation in the symbols, the manifestation of which the reader can see throughout the work. People who are not indifferent to the topic of racism can be recommended to read this book.
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Miller, Joshua and Garran, Ann Marie. Racism in the United States: Implications for the Helping Professions. Springer, 2018.
Peffley, Mark and Mondak, Jeffrey. “Taking a Step Back. Racial Injustice in America.” Kentucky Law Journal, vol. 105, no. 4, pp. 671-684.
Wright, Richard. Native Son. Harper & Brothers, 1940.