Native Son Essay, Research Paper
1. Native Son by Richard Wright; 1940
2. At the halfway point of this book, I find myself amazed at the segregation and racism going on. Never have I read a book that has so clearly accounted for the African American’s feelings towards white people. The hate that brews inside of the African Americans is unbelievably strong, yet quite appropriate. I am enjoying trying to see the racism from the African American’s point of view, rather than the “white view” I think I have had all along. The stark contrast in living conditions between the Dalton family and the Thomas family is undeniable. Mr. Dalton says he supports African Americans and gives them money, yet he owns a real estate company that only sells houses to blacks in certain areas, and charges them more money than whites for dirties places. Bigger Thomas is going to be caught. The authorities will not let him escape. By leaving the house after the bones were located, Bigger basically announced his guilt to all of Chicago. The fact that he is black will not help either. That just makes him that much worse and that much guiltier. The white society already has him condemned and sentenced for life. What he did certainly was wrong, but it was accidental. He cannot run like this, because running makes him look worse. Right now he is trapped by his own inner fears and really has no other choice but to continue running until he gets caught. Nobody will spare him any mercy now. Actually, had he admitted right away to killing Mary, and had he not burned her, he probably wouldn’t have been spared any mercy anyway. That is really hard for me to understand. I cannot understand why whites hate blacks with such passion that they force them to live in subhuman condition for outrageous prices. Bigger just has to keep going and not look back. Eventually he will be caught, and I only hope that he isn’t hurt in anyway when he is caught.
3. (A) The protagonist of The Chosen is Bigger Thomas. He is from the lowest rung of the American social ladder of Depression-era Chicago: he is black, and he is poor. He has been trapped his whole life by the white society, and he has a burning, eternal hate for them. White people made him live the life he lived. By not letting him become anything but a servant, they led him to a life of crime and hate. For so long, too long, the whites saw every black the same. They were all bad and dirty and awful people. In turn, Bigger saw all whites as being bad. To him, every white man is out to hurt him. He returns the racist attitude presented to him by all of the white folk. He does not know how else to act. He only does what he knows how to do. He follows the white man’s example. Bigger proves, though, that he can change. He is willing to learn and to change. He proves that he can be taught, that he is not just an ignorant Negro. Jan Erlone and Boris Max helped him to see this. They encouraged Bigger to fight and to believe in himself as a human. Bigger begins to see that “whiteness” is really individual people, and racial conflicts aren’t simply “whiteness” vs. “blackness.” He gives Max more of a chance than a whole society gave him. Everyone automatically assumed that Bigger raped and murdered Mary; their minds never were really open to anything else. Bigger opened his mind. He gave white folk a chance. Max treated him like a man, a person, and Bigger was grateful for that and he let Max know that by talking to him. If only the white folk could have realized that they needed to give him a chance. Had they treated him like a human being then maybe he would have told them all they wanted to know. Bigger let Max see that the mind of a killer isn’t always the bad one. The mind of the society that wouldn’t give him the chance he gave them was the real killer.
4. (B) Bigger’s most important virtue is his intelligence. He does not let the white folk know how smart he really is. He disguises his intelligence with short, simple answers such as “Yessuh,” or “Naw.” He lives in a world within himself. He struggles with himself and his inner feelings every single day but lets nobody know. The authorities think he is a “dumb Negro” and that he is not capable of committing such a horrible crime all by himself. “How could a black man think of such a complex crime?” is the question burning on all of their minds. Bigger doesn’t let anyone inside of him; he keeps everyone at arms length so they can’t know how intelligent he really is. If they cannot know how intelligent he is, then they cannot know how fearful he is of them, how much anger he has towards them, or the reasons for his killing either. Bigger’s intelligence leads him to believe that he is the only one in the entire world that is not blind. He understands himself, so he thinks he understands everything. He realizes though, that he IS blind. He realizes that in order for people to understand him and for him to feel in control of his life he must admit his guilt. But if he blames racism entirely for his crimes, then he would be admitting that racism controlled him totally right from the start. Bigger is smart enough to be open minded and let in white people, and yet still be close minded and lock everyone, except Max, out of his mind and heart.
3. (D) The main conflict in Native Son by Richard Wright is character vs. society. He resents, hates, and fears the whites who make the confines of his life so narrow. They tell him what to do, where he can live, and where he can work. If there had been no racism directed towards him, he wouldn’t have been so angry and alone. He would never have killed. He was deprived of the means to live a decent life, and became a time bomb, just waiting to explode into a violent rage. He is not the only one to blame for his killings. All of the white folk who persecuted him for so long are partially to blame. They gave him no choice but to take the job at Mr. Dalton’s. He is a product of the racism. He was taught his whole life by whites that he is mean and horrible, vicious and awful. When he committed all of his robberies and murders, he was acting as he was expected to act. Nobody ever expected him to amount to anything at all. He needed to create an identity for himself, so he killed a white girl. A bold act, but one that should have been expected by the white folk because they already thought that the Negroes were absolutely horrible people, the scum of the earth. The white society always gave him the same chance: be miserable and work, or be miserable and don’t work. Nothing good can ever come of someone constantly being told how horrible they are. Bigger was merely a native son; shaped by the culture he was brought up in, not an alien anomaly.
3. (E) The climax to Native Son by Richard Wright is when the white volunteers/policemen catch him on the rooftop. Until then, Bigger has a chance of getting away, of running, escaping, or hiding. His guilt was decided a long time ago, but now that Bigger is actually in the hands of the society that made him, his fate is sealed. He has no chance of getting away now. The white hands which hold him are merciless. At this point, Bigger is either going to rot in jail for the rest of his life or he is going to die nice and quick in the electric chair. Bigger has a small flicker of hope that it will be the former instead of the latter, but the society in which he lives will not take any of the blame for his crime. Therefore, he will be sentenced to death because they think that he is the only savage beast and that if he is put to death, the world will be a safer place. That is the farthest thing from the truth. Until the racism is gone, they will continue to have murders such as the ones committed by Bigger Thomas. At this point it is obvious that all attempts by Max will be futile. Buckley, the State’s Attorney is persistent and will see to it that he gets his way. Bigger’s complicated, twisted, emotional life is without a doubt going to come to an end… right when he decides it is worth living.
3. (F) Native Son is a wonderful book. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone, especially white people. This book allowed me to experience racism from the African American’s point of view. Wright has done an excellent job of conveying the feelings of the African American to his reader, although the book seemed to be a little long and drawn out at points. After he killed Mary, I thought at least a day or two had gone by before he killed Bessie because of everything that had happened. Reporters came to the house, a newspaper was published about her disappearance, Bigger left work and went back one or two times, he planned the ransom note, a private detective was hired. Highly unlikely is it that those events would all occur in one day, but that didn’t really take away from the novel too much. The inner feelings presented to the reader by Wright will make me think twice before I ever accuse anyone of something again. He has made me realize that it is really unfair to do that, because you never know
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