Native Son- Cycle of Poverty

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Cycle of Poverty

Do poor children become poor adults? Does your financial status predetermine you and your family’s success rate? The cycle of poverty is a cold hearted phenomenon. Throughout the world families struggle to break the cycle of poverty- but does it work? In Native Son by Richard Wright, the cycle of poverty rules the Thomas family. They are born into poverty and find it extremely difficult to lift themselves out of their tragic situation. Although several individuals in the novel work to end the cycle, many of their solutions are insufficient and do not take on the problem as a whole. Bigger Thomas and his family clearly portray a typical family stuck in the cycle of poverty. Although many attempts are made to break the cycle, we learn that it takes more than a few individuals to end poverty. The Thomas family fits almost perfectly into the cycle of poverty. Bigger, the main character, lives with his two siblings and his mother. His father died during a riot, leaving his uneducated mother alone with three children, and his children without a role model. This describes the first steps of the cycle of poverty. An uneducated single parent has little opportunities to move forward in life. Bigger's mother struggles to pay their high rent of $8 while trying to properly raise, feed, clothe, and take care of three children. With a single parent trying to make ends meet, the kids are often unsupervised. Supervision is important in early life because it enforces rules and teaches right from wrong. If children are unsupervised, they miss out on learning the basics of life and how things work. Unsupervised kids often get caught up in mischief and mayhem. Bigger constantly finds himself hanging around with a group of guys whose thoughts revolve around crime. They conspire to rob a liquor store, they masturbate in a public theater, they get into fights, and more. Furthermore, with so much crime committed by those in poverty- many of whom are African American- discrimination comes easily to others. A newspaper during Bigger’s murder trial explains that, “Thomas comes of a poor darky family of shiftless and immoral variety. He was raised here and is known to local residents as an irreformable sneak theif and liar. . . Crimes such as Bigger Thomas murders could be lessened by segregating all Negroes in parks, playgrounds, cafes, theatres, and street cars. Residential segregation is imperative” (p. 280-281). This discrimination keeps the doors shut to many opportunities. Whites viewed blacks as inadequate, incapable, dangerous, untrustworthy people. For this reason, blacks were not allowed to do many of the things that whites were able to. In Bigger's case, he wanted to fly: “If you wasn’t black and you had some money and if they’d let you go to that aviation school, you could fly a plane” (p. 17). The disappointment of having nothing to aspire to or look forward to causes people to lose hope. Once hope is lost, it is hard to rise up. Being so restrained also makes people feel trapped and isolated, “‘. . . I just can’t get used to it,’ Bigger said, ‘I swear to God I can’t. . . Every time I think about it I feel like somebody’s poking a red hot iron down my throat. Goddamn it, look! 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. It’s just like living in jail. Half the time I feel like I’m on the outside of the world peeping in through a knothole in the fence…’” (p. 21). Since the chances of achieving the “normal” is so low for those in poverty, their standards and goals are compromised. Instead of striving to be the best, they strive to just live comfortably. These are all parts of the cycle of poverty that keep people from thriving or “living”.

Mr. Dalton, a white millionaire in Native Son, takes several approaches to help end the cycle of poverty for African Americans. His solutions include sending ping-pong tables to the South Side Boys Club, offer...
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