Native Son Theme Analysis

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In his novel, Native Son, Richard Wright reveals his major theme of the Black population in America in the 1930’s. In the opening scene of the novel, Wright introduces his condemning message towards the ugliness of American racism and the social oppression of Blacks in his time. The opening scene of Native Son functions by foreshadowing future events that occur throughout the novel involving major symbols that are introduced in the scene to represent other elements in the novel. The scene also establishes an atmosphere of hopelessness and despair as it presents the Thomas apartment setting and its contrasting image of the Dalton mansion.

The function of the scene is established by three major elements which is the alarm clock, the rat-catching, and the apartment setting. The first element that is introduced is the ambiguous alarm clock. The alarm clock that awakens Bigger Thomas and his family at the opening of the novel is a major symbol that Wright uses to attack American racism. The loud ring the alarm clock gives off serves as a wake-up call Wright wants his audience to hear. Wright uses the alarm to represent his assertive message to the American public of the destructive effects of racism and oppression American society has accepted. His call for change is like a prophetic warning such as Elisha gives, in Biblical context, demanding the need for social change before it is too late for the nation of ancient Israel. Similar to Elisha’s warning, Wright predicts revolutionary violence and social upheaval if racism and oppression is not stopped in American society.

Another function of the alarm clock is its foreshadowing of Bigger’s symbolic awakening in the course of the novel. The clock in the opening scene represents Bigger as a powder keg, both of which are waiting to go off at any moment. Bigger’s climactic point of his explosive act of killing Mary serves the same function as the alarm given off from the clock whereas both wake and opens the eyes of...
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