Native Son

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The Mirror of American Racial Discrimination and Class Conflicts Seen from Richard Wright’s Native Son

【Abstract】Richard Wright’s Native Son is a brand-new page of the Black literature which is one of American “protest novels”. In this novel, the author uses the writing techniques of realism to reflect the fierce racial and class conflicts between the whites and the blacks. So this novel is very important for us to study American history in the 1930s. 【Key words】Native Son;Racial Discrimination;Class Conflict

I. Introduction
In the history of Afro-American literature, quite a lot of black writers put up with the same question: how can Afro-American writers react to racial discrimination? To sum up, there are two totally different opinions coexisting— one is mild and the other is radical. As to those two opinions, black writer Richard Wright serves as a watershed. Prior to Richard Wright, the heroes in black writers’ works are very obedient and obsequious. In 1940, Richard Wright published Native Son which created a completely new image of black people being filled with violence and hatred. Native Son is just like a bombshell making a stir in American literature and American society. The new generation of black people would rather die for dignity than live in disgrace. The background of this novel containing three parts—Fear, Flight, Fate, was based on Chicago in the 1930s. The novel gives an account of a black youth named Bigger and his life experience. Shortly after Bigger is hired by the white man Mr. Dalton, he kills his daughter Mary in accident. In order to escape the punishment, Bigger, with great fear, tries to calumniate the Communist Jan. After the truth is exposed, he has to escape and is captured by eight thousand white policemen later. In the end, he is sentenced to death. The reason why Native Son can occupy the important position in American literature is that the author uses the writing techniques of realism to reflect the furious racial and class conflicts between the whites and the blacks. The name of this novel Native Son implies double connotations: 1. Bigger is an African descendant. 2. Bigger is born in America and his behavior is the consequence of American social circumstances. So this novel is the important data for us to research American history in the 1930s. II. Native Son sheds light on racial discrimination of American society and mirrors the awful living conditions of the black people. There are two unique evolutionary clues in American history, which are crucial for us to understand this novel: 1. American black people migrated from the south to the north during the first half of the twentieth century. 2. The Great Depression produced tremendous crisis from 1929 to 1940. The period of migration from the south to the north could be viewed as a pivotal issue in Afro-Americans’ history only next to Emancipation Proclamation. The First World War stimulated the industrial development of the northern cities which needed a large amount of labor forces. Therefore, the black people escaping from the south gathered in the north but lived in the crowded, shabby slums. After the Civil War, Ku Klux Klan drove the black people out of the House of Representatives and other government departments. The Jim Crow law discriminating and segregating the black people was passed at that time. Furthermore, Great Depression attacked America and the U.S. government took some measures to deal with the crisis. The social relief agency providing the job opportunities to Bigger was the outcome of crisis. The story was developed under such background. Although we don’t see any white racists in this novel, we can still feel the oppression and discrimination the black people suffered. The Biggers live in one of Chicago poor black townships called Black Belt. There is a line between the residences of the whites and the blacks. The whites are not willing to cross the line and the blacks dare not cross the...
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