Many times in novels, authors will use conflicts to strengthen the plot and to give more depth to the story that they are penning. There are four main plot conflicts that authors have to choose from: man versus nature, man versus society, man versus man, and finally, man versus self. Authors, many times, will use only one or two of these conflicts but in the novel, Native Son, all four conflicts are used to some extent. In this novel, Richard Wright, does a superb job of meticulously blending all four conflicts together to form a well-rounded novel about a black man in 1920's Chicago.
"The icy water clutched again at his body like a giant hand; the chill of it squeezed him like the circling coils of a monstrous boa consrictor."(268) This is a perfect example of man versus nature in this novel. In this scene Bigger is faced with a stream of water that is trying to push him into the hands of his hunters. He does everything to escape its grip but the elements get the best of him and he eventually is knocked down by the force of the water and into the arms of his captors. The water combined with the wind and cold outside also take away every ounce of strength he has, thus, leaving him at the mercy of the "furious whisper of water, gleaming like silver in the bright lights..." (268). In the novel Bigger does not have many conflicts with the elements and nature but when he does, it signifies and sets apart a major event in the storyline. This eloquent use of a man versus nature set one of the four conflict building blocks into the foundation for Native Son.
Another prominent conflict Wright uses is man versus man. One vivid example of this is that of a fight that takes place in Doc's poolhall where Bigger and his friends congregate. "Gus sprang up form the chair and grabbed a billiard ball from the able and threw it with a half-sob and half-curse. Bigger flung his hands upward to shield his face and the impact of the ball struck his wrist. He had shut his eyes when he glimpsed the ball sailing through the air toward him and when he opened his eyes Gus was flying through the rear door and at the same time he heard the ball hit the floor and rolll away. A hard pain throbbed in his hand. He sprang forward cursing.
He slipped on a cuestick lying in the middle of the floor and tumbled forward.
That's enough now Bigger,' Doc said laughing.
Jack and G.H. also laughed. Bigger rose and faced them, holdin g his hurt hand. His eyes were red and he stared with speechless hate.
Just keep laughing,' he said.
Behave yourself, boy,' Doc said.
Jus tkeep laughing,' Bigger said again, taking out his knife.
Watch what you're doing now,' Doc cautioned.
Aw, Bigger,' Jack said backing away towards the rear door.
You done spoiled things now,' G.H. said, I rekon that was what you wanted...'
You go to hell!' Bigger shouted. Drowning out G.H.'s voice." (40)
This fight began when Bigger and his friends decided that they were going to rob Blum's store, but when one of them backed out because he did not want to rob a white man's store, Bigger became enraged. There are other incidents in this novel when Wright uses a man versus man conflict to better illustrate his point. During the whole time when Bigger is chaeuferring Mary Dalton and her lover, Jan Erlone, he is silently at war with them. He has these feelings of anger because the good intentions, of the two whites in the backseat of his car, further lower the status of the black man in Bigger's eyes.
"Bigger did not hear him; he ignored the tray of food and opened out the paper. He paused, waiting to hear the door shut. When it clanged, he bent forward to read, then paused again, wondering about hte man who had just left, amazed at how frindly he had acted. For a fleeting moment, while the man had been in his cell, he had not felt aprehensive, cornered. The man had acted straight, matter-of-fact. It was something he could...
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