Native Son Essay

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Richard Wright was determined to make a profound statement. In his novel, Native Son, he endeavors to present the “horror of Negro life in the United States” (Wright xxxiii). By addressing such a significant topic, he sought to write a book that “no one would weep over; that would be so hard and deep that they would have to face it without the consolation of tears” (xxvii). Native Son is a commentary on the poverty and helplessness experienced by blacks in America, and it illustrates the abhorrent ways that blacks were treated, describes their awful living conditions and calls attention to the half-hearted efforts offered by white sympathizers. Told from the perspective of his character Bigger Thomas, Wright crafts a story depicting the oppressive lives endured by Negroes and makes it so despicable that it grabs the attention of the reader and forces him to reevaluate the state of society. There is much in this novel that would cause a reader to cry, but, to Wright’s point, the topic is so significant that it resonates more deeply and elicits a deeper response.

Bigger Thomas is the protagonist of the novel, but, to Wright, Bigger also exemplifies African Americans of the time. He is barely educated, struggling to find meaningful work and living in an overcrowded slum with his family; just like many others around him. Bigger is frustrated with his place in life and finds it difficult to understand why the opportunities that are available to whites are not available to him. During an exchange with his friend Gus, Bigger exclaims, “Goddammit, 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 like living in jail” (23). Bigger and Gus have no outlet to express their individuality or emotions. Their feelings towards whites are ingrained in them. Bigger states, “[Whites live] right down here in my stomach…Every time I think of ‘em, I feel ‘em…It’s like fire…That’s when I...
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