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Native Son Literary Analysis Richard Wrights controversial Native Son was an overnight classic when released in 1940. This story of a young black mans struggle in 1930 s Chicago is one that still echoes throughout the generations. Through his unique uses of symbolism and motifs, Wright reveals to a wide audience the dilemmas and hardships that African-Americans endured and still struggle with today. Through Native Son, Wright boldly addresses the issues that many others will not.
Native Son focuses on the injustices and effects of racism on both the oppressed, oppressors, and the social blindness of the characters. These fundamental themes are woven masterfully throughout the novel by the development of the characters and addition of literary elements. In 1930 s Chicago, we are taken into the downward spiral that consumes the life of Bigger Thomas. Twenty-year-old Bigger struggles to support his mother and siblings while also searching for his sense of identity in a world overrun by white men. However, due to the fact that Bigger's father abandoned him at a young age, it is difficult to provide for his family. Eventually, Bigger reluctantly takes a job as a chauffeur for an extremely wealthy and sympathetic Mr.
Dalton, who even donates money to charities in favor of Negroes. On Bigger's first night of the job, he is instructed to drive Mr. Dalton's daughter, Mary, to the local university. Mary, on the other hand, instructs him otherwise and has him pick up her boyfriend, Jan. To much of Bigger's confusion, they friendly offer him drinks and take him out to eat. When the night is over and Jan has gone, Bigger escorts a drunk Miss.
Dalton to her room where she proceeds to pass out on her bed. While Bigger lays her to sleep, the physically blind Mrs. Dalton inopportunely enters the room, and a panicked Bigger accidentally smothers Mary in attempt to silence her murmurs, which could have revealed his presence. With Bigger left with the lifeless daughter of a white millionaire, he struggles to conceal his crime and avoid the fatal consequences. And whilst on his overall journey to escape conviction, we are clued into the machinery and workings of Bigger Thomas.
Bigger Thomas has lived a life of fear and rage as a direct result of his oppression and confinement. While revealing his most sincere self to his attorney, Boris A. Max, Bigger comments that, (White people) Well, they own everything. They choke you off the face of the earth. They like God They dont even let you feel what you want to feel.
They after you so hot and hard you can only feel what they doing to you. They kill you before you die. (327) With no source of steady income, Bigger takes to a life of crime and violence. Despite Bigger's role as the protagonist, Wright portrays Bigger as the archetypal nigger. Although one may lean towards sympathy for Bigger, he nonetheless is lazy, violent, and shady. Wright makes it a deliberate point to display Bigger as problematic and truly capable of murder.
For example, when Bigger is faced with the task of decapitating Mary so she would fit in the furnace, his eyes are glazed, with nerves tingling with excitement (91). While and after disposing of Mary, Bigger feels no guilt or sorrow. In fact, he is filled with a sense of triumph and the individuality that he craves. It is only through the act of killing Mary does Bigger feel a strange sense of elation and excitement due to the fact that he has asserted the individualism onto himself that whites have aimed to destroy in the black race.
Portraying Bigger as guiltless and dangerous is an attempt to show that Bigger is a product of society. It is his fear of whites that they consciously have asserted on him that enabled him to guiltlessly murder Mary Dalton. It is only when Bigger is faced with the threat of execution does he begin to see whites as individuals and not something to fear. With the help of people like his lawyer and a sympathetic Jan, Bigger is able to realize that some whites actually display human characteristics and are capable of compassion and empathy. However, it is the traditional remainder of society, like the Dalton's, that brings Bigger down. On the other end of the spectrum, yet no less important, is the role of the father of the murdered Miss Dalton.
As Bigger's attorney is questioning Mr. Dalton, a realtor, as to why he refuses to rent apartments to blacks on the traditionally white side of town, Mr. Dalton replies that Its an old custom and that he simply didnt make the custom (303). This demonstrates that Mr.
Dalton is guilty of containing blacks and discrimination, despite claiming to be supportive of black Americans. This fact greatly conflicts with his philanthropy and efforts to improve the lives of Negroes in the city. However, despite his donations and time, Mr. Dalton in reality hasnt contributed to the improvement of black standings at all. Instead, Mr. Dalton only gives to the black community to alleviate his guilt of overcharging them rent money and renting to them only in the squalid section of Chicago.
Furthermore, the charities and donations he does give out are insignificant and unhelpful. The most accommodating addition that he made for the black community was giving them ping-pong tables at the local youth center and paying for the education of a select few individuals. But even with an education, he admits to Mr. Max's questioning that he would not hire an educated black even if they were qualified to work for him. At first, Mr. Dalton may have been a charitable, decent man with a kind heart, but he only proved to be a sheep of the white race as his character developed.
It is in this way that Mr. Dalton indirectly aided in his daughters murder. As Mr. Max comments on the relationship between the Dalton's and the Thomas, he encourages Mr. Dalton to say to himself, I offered my daughter as a burnt sacrifice and it was not enough to push back into its grave this thing that haunts me (362).
This realization is truthful; by never renting to blacks in the white area, he kept Bigger, the man who murdered his only daughter, a stranger to Mary and Mary and stranger to Bigger. As a result, Bigger was in no way able to see Mary as an individual and never felt guilty for her murder. But not only through the use of characters l...
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