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Free will Vs social circumstance Richard Wright s Native son demonstrates how evil can be created by power driven, racist white society. His novel depicts one black man, Bigger Thomas as being forced to commit violence by his social circumstance. The story is an eye opener, one whos main purpose is to bring awareness to many blind and racist whites. In order to reveal to them that they are part of the problem.
That they too play a large role in creating the very creatures they can t stand. Native son contains many messages, the novel focuses around violence, oppression, and lack of hope for the future and fear in society. Wright tries to express that Bigger Thomas is not so unique, but rather is a representative of young black men. Bigger Thomas was set up to fail from the beginning of his life in one way or another by the status allocated to him by society. It is not so hard to conceive that a man could commit horrible crimes when he was forced to grow up in a life situation which left him option less. Bigger like his fellow blacks was given a choice by the oppressive, fearful, racist white society.
He could be miserable and work or be miserable and not work. Between these options there was little room for happiness, a sense of hope or the opportunity to better his situation in life. Even if Bigger did work no matter how hard he worked he could never have moved out of his neighborhood because blacks weren t allowed to move anywhere else. It was this institutional racism which prohibited Bigger to feel a sense of identity or gain feelings of individualism. The white racist societies categorized Bigger and all blacks into one group. A group that was by their views subhuman, and horrible.
These views led Whites to suppress the black man to keep him forever under the white man. However, the reason for this way of thinking sprang from fear. This fear ultimately yielded a Bigger Thomas who felt he couldn t develop his own identity because no matter what, white society would just see him as a member of that black group as if they were all the same. However, this resulted in Bigger Thomas acting out and committing violent acts. This violent creature sprang from his habitat. Bigger found a sense of freedom and identity in his acts of violence.
It was through this violence which forced the white race to take notice and recognize Bigger Thomas as a person. On p 391 Bigger comments I didn t want to kill! But what I killed for I am. This quote acts as proof revealing white societies refusal to take notice of Bigger, enraged him so much that he was forced to act out and kill to gain the recognition and sense of individualism which white society had enjoyed arrogantly for more than a century.
White society feared loosing their power over blacks, which is one of the main reasons why the white landlords forced blacks to pay high rents and live in the slums. By keeping the African American race in debt and constantly out of money they were forced to rely on white people and be subservient to them. The life of Bigger Thomas living in a one bedroom apartment with his whole family and rats is what most black families had to endure. This lack of space provided no room for an individual to grow and be alone. Producing a race of people who had no sense of identity. It was the white races fear which prompted them to make the black race as weak as possible.
Wrights use of fear and how it is a determinate in the book is obvious and purposeful. It provides a more in depth look at the injustice done onto blacks by both whites and themselves. Bigger along with his fellow African Americans were also living with fear. They feared the white race, they knew they had been subjects of their circumstance and they knew that white society created and maintained that unjust circumstance at all costs. This knowledge kept blacks like Bigger Thomas down and afraid to do things like rob a white mans store and try to better there situation in life. It is through this fear which blocked the growth of Bigger Thomas s individual identity.
White society did there best to suppress Bigger Thomas and everyone like him. Wright depicts religion throughout the book as a sort of opium which Bigger sees as white society again using whatever they can to suppress the blacks and throughout the book that opium is religion. Bigger comes to this conclusion on p 313 where he comments to the reader that the cross was not the cross of Christ but the cross of the Ku Klux Klan. and then follows it up by shouting That s a goddamn lie! implying the cross is a lie. It is here where Bigger losses all faith in religion because he views it as a white mans tool to suppress the black man.
He sees the KKK burning the cross and he starts to think that they also dominant religion. He remembers how his mother constantly goes to church and realizes that religion sedates his mother just like the white folks want it too, religion allows Bigger's mother and many other black people to escape the horrible reality in which they are living because religion emphasizes how good and happy life will be after death. Bigger intelligently says on p 329 all they did was sing and shout and pray all the time. And it didn t get em nothing. The white folks got everything Bigger continues with his final statement summing up why he doesn t believe in religion and why he thinks it is a tool of the white man by declaring I wanted to be happy in this world, not out of it. Bigger dissects his own thoughts and realizes white people like all blacks to believe in religion because then they (whites) can do what they want with us (black people).
p 329 Bigger's realization is supposed to be a vehicle alerting whites and blacks to be more aware of their actions and how injustice comes in many forms and as Bigger Thomas thought in the form of organized religion. However, the main purpose of the novel is to show how society plays a role in the creation of a man who resents, hates and fears the white race who confine his life and make it so narrow. They tell him what to do, where he can live, and where he can work. This type of dominance produces both a person lacking a sense of identity and a person capable of horrible acts.
Because Bigger Thomas was deprived of the means to live a decent life, he became a time bomb waiting to explode into a violent rage. Wright wants to reveal that society is shaping numerous Bigger Thomas s and if we want them to stop growing and murdering we have to take the first step and change the racist society which is creating these monsters who are set up and expected to fail. Creating a person who has no opportunities or hope can only produce monsters who feel they have nothing to loose but everything to gain.
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