Racism in Richard Wright's Native Son

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Devil in the Details: Racism in the Works of Richard Wright, and America Today

America as a country has never had the smoothest history. Below the well known traditions and ideals of American society lies many travesties that for the sake of image, are treated as footnotes in textbooks. One such example is racism, particularly that of the African American people. Even after being released from the shackles of slavery, African Americans had to deal with racism pitted against them for centuries, a challenge which persists even today in the 21st century. In Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son, Wright explores the racism of the early 20th century, which almost 100 years later, still resonates in the lives of African Americans all over the nation. The racism that held back American society early 20th century is still a force in American society today, though to a lesser extent.

Native Son is about Bigger Thomas, a poor, uneducated, African American male living in Chicago during the 1930's. Bigger is burdened by the predestined notion that due to his environment and society, he is predestined to be nothing more then a menial low wage laborer, never having the chance to succeed in a world controlled by white men. This angers him, and makes grow bitter and distant from society, casting him as an antihero to the reader, rather then a pure-hearted protagonist.

Left with no little option but to succumb to the pressure of his families' needs and his society's pressure, Bigger takes a job as a chauffeur for the Daltons, a rich white family. The conflict of the story comes into play when he accidentally murders the family's daughter, Mary, a crime which eventually leads to his arrest and trial, where he is sentenced to death. Bigger is considered not to be entirely responsible for his actions; the harsh racist world he lived him molded him into a villain. If given the chance to grow up in a world of equality, Bigger's potential would've been limitless.

Richard Wright...
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