Racism in Richard Wright's "Native Son"

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 15:27   /   Views: 627
Racism in Richard Wright's "Native Son"

In Native Son, Richard Wright uses a central character, Bigger, to express his opinions on racism in society. In order to truly portray the nature of black society through Bigger, Wright combines the personalities of several actual people that he has come in contact with. Each person possessed a different unique personality trait that Bigger would embody. Wright explains, in the section titled “How Bigger was Born,” which traits he included in Bigger’s complex personality. During the course of the novel, Bigger demonstrates each of the separate personality traits through an action or a thought. Although Bigger’s character exhibits varying personality traits, he displays a plausible quality in that his changes in feeling or situation can give rise to different emotions from bravery to brutality.

Wright establishes five influences that he combined to form Bigger. The first “Bigger” was a cruel boy who terrorized Wright as a child; he took toys from others and lived his life as a continuous challenge to all who opposed him. This Bigger is aptly portrayed in the scene in Doc’s poolroom when Bigger brutalizes Gus. Bigger, in fear of robbing Blum’s store, viciously bullies Gus and threatens him with a knife. “You want me to slice you?”(40) These two are prime examples of boys who feel a need to exercise authority in order to subdue their own fears of insignificance.

The second Bigger was oblivious to the rules that the white world had set down for him. He would not pay for the supplies he received on credit, yet he lived more luxuriously than the blacks in the slums. The boy’s reasoning is one of complaint: he claims that white folks had everything and that black folks had nothing. This corresponds to Bigger and his friends complaining about the privileges of which they were deprived, such as Bigger’s aspiration to fly that was immediately discarded due to the color of his skin. “They don’t let us do nothing…The white folks.” (22)

The third and fourth Biggers were also oblivious to social rules that have been laid down. The third Bigger displays more ignorance and cruelty to authority: “You can’t make me do nothin’ but die!” (312), while the fourth shares specific characteristics with the Bigger in Native Son in that his warped mind cannot discern illusion with reality, parallel to Bigger’s mindset in the jail cell. “There was but a long stretch of time, a long stretch of time that was short; and then—the end.”(254) The fifth Bigger is a little braver than the central character; he openly defies the Jim Crow laws of the South and objects strongly to being an “outsider.” This is evident in Bigger’s perception on the supposed “justification” of his murder of Mary Dalton; he defied the law set down but objected to being an outsider, instead he expected respect and reverence from his fellow blacks.

Wright uses these five types as composite Biggers, declares that all Biggers are the products of American civilization and that the white society, with its debasement of the black man, has created all of the Biggers of America. Their Jim Crow laws, unfair proceedings, and general disrespect directed at the Black race has provoked conflict as well as generate thousands of Biggers who share a common quality in that they revolt against the conduct established for them by the prejudiced white nation. The whites see these rebels not as human beings struggling for dignity and recognition but as a threat to society that should be restrained. Bigger Thomas represents any black man who cannot be conditioned by the white man’s laws and will not accept social oppression.

Article name: Racism in Richard Wright's "Native Son" essay, research paper, dissertation