Richard Wright’s Experience to His Successful Writing Career
Richard Wright was a writer and author. His childhood was mostly him being hungry and poor. He struggled with becoming a writer. But even with the hardships, he still had a lot of accomplishments. Even though Richard Wright’s childhood was rough, he became a great author. Richard Wright had a rough childhood. He was born near Natchez, Mississippi, on September 4th, 1908. He was the son of Ella Wilson who was a school teacher and Nathaniel Wright who was a sharecropper. He had a brother named, Leon Alan Wright. Richard was never connected with his father. He claimed that he was a stranger to him [Richard Wright]. His father wasn’t emotionally there for them.When he was 6, his father left his family to move with another woman. Richard said that it didn’t affect him too much emotionally but he was affected physically. The mom was stressed out since she had to take care of two kids by herself. The family started having financial issues. Richard was hungry most of the time now, but it wasn’t major. Unfortunately, his mother became ill and wasn’t allowed to do any domestic job. Since his mother couldn’t support the family anymore, Richard and his brother were sent to an orphanage. During the orphanage, he went to Howard’s Institute but that didn’t last long since the family moved to Jackson and then to Arkansas.
The family then moved back to Jackson to stay with his grandparents and his aunt. Richard never got a good education due to the fact that they kept on moving to find a better place to live. Richard moved school to school and finally settled to Smith Robertson Junior High School graduating the 9th grade. He then went to Lanier High school but soon dropped out due to the fact that he had to start taking care of his family.He had some issues at home. His grandmother was very religious and Richard wasn’t comfortable due to that. He rebelled against religion due to his grandmother. He took a lot of jobs to save up, to move. He soon got enough money to move to Memphis. He soon began to focus on writing more.Richard Wright’s writing career started when he was 15. He wrote his first story called The Voodoo of Hell’s Half-Arch. The story was published in a local black newspaper. His grandmother was very religious and started hating on the title because of the word Hell. In fact, his grandmother wouldn’t let any books in, especially fiction because it is the devil’s work. Due to this situation, Richard Wright couldn’t read as much at home. Instead he would go to the library. But he couldn’t take any books out since he was black. He had to borrow a library card from an Irish worker and forge notes just to take out books. He moved to Memphis and he started reading more contemporary American Literature.He then moved to Chicago to leave the south because of the Jim Crow Laws. In 1935, he started to write a bunch of short stories and a novel. He then decided to hit big and move to New York. When he was in New York, he worked as an editor of Daily Worker.During his free time, he worked on his writing. His short story collection, Uncle Tom’s Children, got published in 1938! This is when his writing finally got launched and noticed.
After that, he started to publish so much more writing and started to get awards for them.Even though he had a lot of hardships, he still became very successful. He accomplished a lot in his literary career.In 1939, he was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship award from his Uncle Tom’s Children short story collection, which had a prize of $500. In 1949, he awarded the “Spingarn Medal” by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He wrote successful books such as Native Son and Black Boy. In fact, Native Son was put on the Times Magazine’s list of 100 Best English Novels from 1923 to 2005. Black Boy also became a bestseller at one point and that book inspired James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison. He won so many achievements during his career. Richard Wright was an amazing writer. Even with his tough childhood, he still became this talented writer. He inspires people and shows that if you give hard work and effort to something, you can achieve your dreams! In conclusion, Richard Wright was a talented writer who had a rough past but didn’t let that affect him.
The Emotion of Fear in Richard Wright’s “Native Son”
David J. Schwartz, an American motivational writer and coach, once stated “Action cures fear”. In short, doing something to stop your fear will no longer make you scared of your fear. Schwartz’s quote connects to the character Bigger Thomas in Richard Wright’s, Native Son. Bigger is controlled by the fear of white people and this fear caused Bigger to kill Mary Dalton, daughter of Mr and Mrs. Dalton, however unlike Schwartz’s quote killing Mary Dalton didn’t cure Bigger’s fear of white people as it only made it worse. Richard Wright uses symbolism and intense diction to make an argument that fear enables people in particular African-Americans to fight for their lives which leads to consequences.
The book starts off with Bigger Thomas waking up and getting dressed until his sister Vera shaking with fear told Bigger that there was a rat. The rat was “pulsed with fear” as it “ emitted a long thin song of defiance … pawing the air restlessly” (Wright 6). The rat and Bigger share a lot of similarities such as living in unsanitary conditions but also foreshadows Bigger’s character as someone who fights every day for survival as his actions are motivated by fear. The rat also symbolizes the struggle that African-Americans at the time have to live in and were forced to live in ghettos as everyday they struggle to survive. African-Americans and the rat also face violence more frequently as they are both exposed to savage murder and violence such as lynching for African-Americans done by white Americans. Gus,a friend of Bigger, was walking with Bigger and as they were walking Bigger saw a plane and says “I could fly a plane if I chance” which caused Gus to reply back by saying “ If you wasn’t black and if you had some money and if they’d let you go to that aviation school, you could fly a plane”(Wright 17). The plane shows the gap between white and black and how much they can achieve. The term “the sky’s the limit” only refers to white Americans while African-Americans can only reach as far as the ground. Bigger and Gus are below the plane while the white man is above them which shows how divided whites and blacks.
The symbol of the plane also justifies white’s authority over blacks as planes are above in the air and they are being flown by white people. White Americans look down over African-Americans making them feel superior to America. Later on in the book, Bigger, Mary, and Jan ,Mary’s boyfriend, were driving to Ernie’s Kitchen Shack for a meal. Mary told Bigger that she wanted to know “ just [to] see how your people live I want to know these people”(Wright 70). Even though Mary and Jan are showing sympathy towards Bigger and the whole community but they are unable to see how uncomfortable Bigger was as “ his heart was beating fast and he struggled to control his breath”(Wright 70). Mary and Jan were blind to Bigger’s emotions and feelings as they were unable to make Bigger feel comfortable but more towards discomfort. Blindness is also when Mrs.Dalton was unable to see Bigger when he murdered Mary as in the text it states “ Mary? Is that you? … Mary! Are you ill?”(Wright 86).
Analysis of Native Son by Richard Wright
According to a collection of maps in an article on the Big Think webpage, there were at least 126 occurrences of lynching between 1930 and 1938. However, in opposition to these concrete statistical analyses, one man published a novel in 1940 that would oppose the theory of a physical warfare, and claimed that the era of the 1930s was home to a “battle of words”. This man is Richard Wright, and his novel, “Native Son”, introduced the protagonist Bigger Thomas as a character whom was oppressed by racism leading to his murder of 2 women.
The novel involved 3 detailed chapters separated as “Fear”, “Flight”, and “Fate”, each with a major theme in mind. Bigger Thomas was triggered by a fear of oppression that forced him into placing the blame of murder on other individuals. Furthermore, the protagonist’s decision to challenge authorities ignited a crowd of thousands. Unfortunately, toward the end of the novel, Bigger was jailed to show the childish attempt of walking in a blizzard with a torch of passion.
Despite the various methods of bodily harms that were inflicted on Negroes in the 1930s, the major source of conflict in “Native Son” came from verbal arguments and well-constructed lies. In the first chapter, “Fear”, the author expressed the theme of “Damage Heads” whereas several characters in the novel were injure in their head, which is the shell of their mind, after failing to make an impact with their words. For example, on page 70, Bigger felt a sense of hatred toward Mary after she had questioned about the lifestyle of blacks. Ultimately, Bigger silenced Mary in her room with a pillow and tossed her in the furnace. Once again, Mary’s existence was in defiance with Bigger’s goal of hiding his murder, and her head was cut off. Furthermore, the conflict of beliefs was demonstrated on page 152 when Bigger felt cornered out of fear of the law. Britten, a private investigator, smashed Bigger’s head against the wall to show the imminent exposure of Bigger’s murder and Britten’s ability to overlook Bigger’s lies.
A second theme of Native Son was introduced by a static character, Bessie, whom has often complained about her poor lifestyle. “I ain’t never bothered nobody. I just worked hard every day as long as I can remember, till I was tired enough to drop.” Bessie said on page 215. The author of “Native Son” corrected the fallacy of passiveness by showing that doing nothing could still trigger negative emotions from an activist: Bigger murdered Bessie because she was reluctant to escape with him. Another example of the theme “Lead or Be Lead” is expressed toward the end of the first chapter, “Fear”, whereas Mary has simply donated money to the communist party instead of taking an active role. Mary could’ve done a lot more to help the Negroes. In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus called his disciples together after seeing a widow put a few cents into the church’s offering box and told them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” Mary is like the rich people whom came before the widow and put their excess earnings, for donating $3,000 out of her families million-dollar treasury is a miniscule amount. Richard Wright also modeled the character of Bigger after the poor widow that followed the rich and started a revolution. Mary did not put enough effort into making a better future for Negroes and paid the consequences with her own life under the hand of an activist.
Richard Wright utilized realism in his novel by also presenting the negatives to an exorbitant amount of passion. On page 255, the narrator described Bigger’s state after being captured for his crimes, “Even when they snatched him up by the collar, his weak body easily lending itself to be manhandled, he looked without hope or resentment…” Too great a passion is often followed by technical miscalculation and costly consequences. In an article titled “Why Passion for Your Work Isn’t Always a Good Thing” published by Anna Medaris Miller, a Senior Health Editor at U.S. News, workers whom exhibited symptoms of passion in the workplace often claims that they cannot think about anything else. Bigger was too passionate in his attempt to challenge the large white world and in the process murdered 2 innocent bystanders.
Richard Wright wrote “Native Son” to share his enthusiasm for the bullies in his life, as demonstrated in the author’s note at the beginning of the novel. Even though Richard was attacked physically and emotionally by the bullies, some part of him wanted to be a bully, to be brave enough to stand up against the injustice of the 1930s. Evidences of Richard’s eagerness toward speaking out are shown through Bigger’s contemplation on page 110, “He liked to hear of how Japan was conquering China; of how Hitler was running the Jews to the ground…” Bigger knew that Hitler and Mussolini was murderer, but he did not care because they were activists, and Bigger acknowledged their bravery. These two historic figures changed the way Americans and people from various other countries see the world. During Hitler’s era, there were supporters of his plan that eventually realized Hitler’s cruel methods of “purging” Germany. What if someone stood up for injustice instead of creating injustice? Bigger Thomas has acted out of his boundary as a Negro and brought with him individuals such as Max and Jan whom could now build a more convincing claim against racial inequality. Bigger had acted out of repressed rage and became a murderer. However, in the last sentence of the novel, Bigger was smiling as he freed himself of his desires. “Therefore, instead of stressing out about matching passion with purpose, just do it. Do something. Anything” said Viktorija Veltmane, an author of Prsuit. Bigger did something, he expressed his concerns and gathered a mob at court. Richard Wright did something too, he published a book attacking injustice during a time that might cost him his life. Richard Wright’s message of assertiveness were received and confirmed with the introduction of leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. A dream has changed the world; an act could change a lot more.
Power Struggle in Richard Wright’s Novel Native Son
Power Struggle in Native Son
When moments of fear and uncertainty fall upon us, as humans, we often react in surprising ways. In Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son, the protagonist, Bigger Thomas, and his peers deal with a constant feeling of suppression and unease due to the color of their skin. White people stood on much higher ground than black people in Chicago in the 1930’s. Throughout the book, Bigger struggles to find a balance between being who he is and being trusted and accepted in society. When faced with the absolute power of white people, Bigger reacts dramatically and fatally. In the face of confrontation of someone else’s power, the feeling of fear within Bigger is what causes him to react so negatively. Consciously, he decides to turn that fear around into an attempt to free himself from the firm grips of white power. The need to feel like an individual who has self-power is more important to Bigger than his freedom and the life of others. Powerlessness in a power-hungry person creates a never ending circle of trying to break free.
Initially, a crippling fear of white people lives inside Bigger and causes him to feel extreme emotions and perform extreme acts. The first section of the book, entitled “Fear”, shows Bigger going on an emotional rollercoaster from rage to panic to indifference all in a single day. As he gets more nervous about the job with the Daltons, he begins to act on his violent emotions. The closer he gets to white people, the less he can control his actions. This extreme feeling of trepidation within Bigger always arises when he is faced with interaction with a white person. First, when he and his friends sort a plan to rob a white man, Bigger is too frightened to go through with it and subsequently threatens his friend’s life. Next, when Bigger is in Mary Dalton’s room and Mrs. Dalton enters, he feels scared that the white women will hurt him. Because of this, he suffocates Mary. Ironically, Bigger is much larger and stronger than both the women, Mary being extremely intoxicated and Mrs. Dalton being frail and blind, and would easily be able to (and in Mary’s case, does) physically restrain them from him. But because he knows that they are white and have more societal power over him, he is panicked to the point that he smothers an innocent person. This death is ironic because although Bigger feels completely powerless, he is able to gain power over the person who is the exact representation of who has the ultimate power over him in the first place. The fear within Bigger exemplifies how although Wright created a dislikable and violent character through Bigger, his actions are only a result of the suppression of black people by white people.
After the death of Mary, Bigger realizes that he is not as powerless as he had originally thought and begins to free his mind from the controlling grasp white people have on it. This second section of the book, entitles “Flight”, metaphorically shows Bigger’s escape from the white people’s power over him. Wright sets the character of Bigger up, initially, as a monster, then justifies it by displaying how it was white people and their power in the first place that created that monster. Bigger does not feel any guilt for the death of Mary because he sees it as a symbol of finally finding a way to have power over white people. The fact that the Daltons are rich and famous white people further exposes Bigger’s sense of pride at being able to strip them of their power.
Although white people are the ones in the story who have the power, Bigger is the one who desires it the most. He will do, and does do, anything he can to accomplish his goal of having more power than white people. Bigger is a power-hungry, monstrous, angry person who was pushed into that mindset by the hopelessness of being black in a society that gives no power to black people. Wright shows how trying to constrain the power of an entire culture and hand it to another will only worsen things for both cultures.
Native Son by Richard Wright: Representation of the Black Men in a Violent System
Native Son questions
According to Wright, what did Bigger Thomas represent?
Bigger Thomas represents all black men existing in a system where it is impossible for them to exist without crime or violence. Their behavior was dictated by their hatred of white people. They were an oppressed community full of anger and frustration that they could not achieve what whites could achieve. The American Dream was off limits to them. The limitations of the black American culture were extremely evident in Native Son. Bigger mentions early in the novel that he was “sick of his life at home…but what could he do?” (Wright 22). Bigger felt trapped by society.
Bigger thinks at one point, “why should not this cold white world rise up as a beautiful dream… in which it would be easy to tell what to do and what not to do” (Wright 198). Even though he was talking about snow, it can be symbolic of the white oppression that he was surrounded by. Bigger, as representative of all other black men in his situation, longs for a world in which he can succeed and move freely without hatred or discrimination, but he is instead given a world in which is is despised at every corner and denied the freedoms that other white men get.
Black men still endure oppression in today’s society. Whether it is from police brutality, racial profiling, or racists acts of violence, black people still do not possess the complete and unlimited freedom that white people get just because of their skin color. Black people must surpass many more obstacle stacked against them than black people. Even in the decades since Wight’s novel’s publishing, the racism in this country still lingers on.
What two events inspired Wright to create Bigger Thomas?
Wright explains that Bigger was created based on real life people he had met in his lifetime. He describes 5. The first Bigger was was a bully who terrorized Wirght as a child. The other Biggers were people who violently reacted against the white system that held them down in some way or another (Wright 10). These black Biggers reflected the “failures of modern civilization” (Wright 10). The other event that helped Nixon to create Bigger Thomas was the Nixon trial that occurred in 1938 (Wright 11). Essentially a black man named Robert Nixon was arrested and charged with the murder of a white woman. Wright used many details from the case and the white racism portrayed in it as material to help him create Bigger.
A revealing moment in the mentality of Bigger is when he thinks to himself that he “hated his family because he knew that they were suffering and that he was powerless to help them…and the moment he allowed himself to feel to feel to its fullness of how they lived…he would either kill himself or someone else” (Wright 20). The extreme despair and frustration displayed in this quote allows us to sort of understand Bigger to commit the horrible crimes that he did.
When people feel boxed in, ignored, hated, or any other array of negative feelings, they often feel no other way out than by violence. Why should they bother following the rules of a society that hates them? When a person is treated so badly, they oftentimes resort to extreme measures to feel some kind of worth or achievement, like when Bigger killed Mary. Even though it was accidental, afterwards he felt like he had accomplished something great because it was an act out against the white race that had oppressed him.
Why is Book One entitled “Fear”?
Book one is entitled Fear because it is referring the fears that Bigger is experiencing throughout the first part of the novel. The same fears that contribute to him committed the heinous crimes later in the novel. In one particular instance, Bigger becomes so scared with the thought of robbing Blum’s that he attacks one of his own partners to keep it from happening (Wright 42). Bigger is scared of his life never getting any better than it is when the novel begins, he is scared of being a black man in the society he lives in, and it is fear that eventually drives him to accidentally kill Mary.
The manic intensity with which Bigger attacks Gus in the store is a direct result of his fear at robbing the white man’s store. Wright describes Bigger throughout the scene as having “hard, bloodshot eyes” and a “twisted, crooked smile” (Wright 44). Wright gives us the feeling that Bigger is enjoying the torture of Gus, which is scarier than the idea of Bigger attacking Gus just to get out of the robbery. The cruel way in which the attack on Gus is described may be indicative of how Bigger feels personally attacked everyday by society.
Many acts of war today are a result of “shoot now, ask questions later.” Some people are so fearful that they may be attacked in some way that they attack first themselves. This can also be related on a smaller scale, like in bullying. A student is so scared that they may be picked on that they start a rumor about someone else first in order to draw the attention away.
Why does Wright bring in the confrontation with the rat?
In the opening pages of the novel, we are presented with the image of a large ugly black rat clinging to Bigger’s trousers. Right in the first few pages, we are made aware of the conditions Bigger and his family live in. A shabby apartment ridden with rats and filth is indicative of the poverty they endure. Bigger feels trapped by the life he has in that apartment and it contributes to his overall frustration and despair.
I believe that this confrontation with the rat is symbolic of the racism Bigger experiences in society. When the rat comes into the apartment, obviously hated, it rears up in defense. When it realizes that it is trapped in the apartment and cannot run, it tries to attack the dominating force and is ultimately killed. This event is similar to Bigger entering Mary’s room. When Mrs. Dalton enters the room, Bigger does the only thing he knows to do out of fear and even though he manages to escape that night, he is ultimately killed by the confrontation.
Many Americans today still live in poverty or starvation. It can seem nearly impossible to achieve dreams when your every thought is consumed by need money or food. Financial hindrance is a huge obstacle to overcome and it kept Bigger working menial jobs just to make ends meat. It is the reason we still need programs and initiatives to combat poverty and starvation numbers in the United States, and larger scale than that, the world.
Who was Bessie? What was pathetic about her life?
Bessie was Bigger’s girlfriend, even though they had a prostitution-type relationship. Bessie was an overworked black woman who only wanted to drink when she had time off. “[Bessie] wanted liquor and he wanted her. So he would give her the liquor and she would give him herself.” What was so sad about Bessie was that she felt like she “lived their lives when she was working in their home” and that was the reason for why she drank (Wright 119). She was so unhappy and so desperate for a drink that she would give herself to Bigger in exchange for money.
Bigger described Bessie’s life as working seven days a week with only Sunday afternoons off. When Bessie was off work for that singular afternoon, Bigger said she wanted “hard and fast fun, something to make her feel that she was making up for the starved life she was living.” Wright is able to create the image of a girl worked hard every single week just to survive. Bigger uses a metaphor to describe her saying “she was very blind.” Maybe Bigger thought she was being blind, but I believe it was just her way of coping with the sadness in her life.
Alcoholism is a relatively common way to deal with depression and unhappiness/anger in American society. Alcoholism kills thousands every year by itself and with the help of drunk driving. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and others help people cope with their addiction. More people need to understand that alcohol is a depressant and is not a long term solution to the problem they are experiencing. In Bessie’s case, she reached out for the only thing that she felt could take her away from her problem.
Why does Bigger kill Mary Dalton?
Bigger kills Mary Dalton because he is gripped by a “hysterical terror” of being caught by Mary’s blind mother, Mrs. Dalton (Wright 80). Bigger was certain that if he didn’t keep Mary from making noise or mumbling, he would be discovered. He does the only thing he can think to do. He grabs the pillow and pushes it down over her face with all his might. It appears he doesn’t intentionally kill Mary by his surprise that her bosom isn’t moving anymore, but one can imagine that he may have subconsciously wanted to kill her when he continued to press down the pillow even after she stopped resisting.
Wright describes Bigger’s attack as being “dominated by frenzy,” which is a use of anthropomorphism. Bigger didn’t feel in control of his own emotions, rather, they were in control of him. He acted without thinking and without contemplation. He was like the rat in the apartment in the first scene of the novel. Once cornered, he felt his only choice was to fight back.
The ‘fight or flight’ response is a very real phenomenon in humans. When cornered or under intense stress, a person will have to choose immediately whether to prepare to fight or run away. Bigger in this instance chose to fight. He mentions having the idea to “knock her out of the way and bolt form the room” (Wright 80). Today, many crime of passion murders of attacks are a result of the fight or flight response. A person choosing in the exact moment to fight it out rather than run. Bigger’s instincts told him to attack Mary because he was legitimately in fear for his life.
How does the concept of blindness relate to the work?
It is Mrs. Dalton’s physical blindness that prompts Bigger to murder Mary. He believes that if she cannot see him and he can keep Mary quiet, Mary will not reveal his presence. Bigger thinks to himself, “Mrs. Dalton was blind; yes, in more ways than one” (Wright 94). Metaphorically, this represents the racism that Bigger experiences as a black man. Mrs. Dalton is unable to literally see Bigger, but she also simultaneously representing other white people who fail to see black people (Bigger, specifically) as a human beings.
The stereotypes of black people were so potent at the time that it caused them to live their lives in fear. It is why Bigger reacted in such a terrible way to Mary’s mother walking into the room. He was fearing for his life and did the only thing he could think to do that would save him. The crime then sent him tumbling down a road of no return.
Many people are in denial today that racisms till exists. They prefer to turn a blind eye to the signs around them that indicate mistreatment of blacks and other people of color. In order to move forward as a society, we need to openly address the problem that racism still exists. We must remove the figurative blindness from our sights and understand race relations for what they are and begin to take action.
After Mary’s murder, what drastic action does Bigger take? How did the community respond to the murder?
After killing Mary, he is convinced he must get rid of the evidence. He brings Mary’s body down to the basement to shove into the furnace to burn, but it won’t quite fit. In is insanity, we decides he must decapitate the head off of Mary’s body so that it can go into the furnace. Some imagery and recurrence of the color white is brought back in when Bigger “look[s] at Mary’s white throat. Could he do it? He had to” (Wright 84). Once he realizes that his pocket knife will not cut of the head, he reaches for a hatchet to hack it the rest of the way off. Once he got the body shoved into the furnace, he lit it ablaze and left for home. Eventually the body is discovered, and the media descends into a frenzy. Their news headline read, “HUNT BLACK IN GIRL’S DEATH” (Wright 198). Bigger hears that nearly 8000 men are on the hunt for him. The community falls into a mob mentality and when they finally capture Bigger, they beat him until he is secured by police.
When Bigger is finally captured, “two men stretched his arms out, as though to crucify him. This is an obvious allusion to the crucifixion of Jesus. Here was Bigger, a black man, dying for the wrongs of so many white people that drove him to commit heinous acts of violence. Except in this case, no redemption was to awarded to the people who eventually sentenced him to death.
Mob mentality occurs when everyone is influenced by other people in the mob to adopt certain, usually outlandish, behaviors. A recent example of mob mentality is Cologne attacks. Essentially hundreds of men gathered at train stations in Frankfurt, Cologne, and Hamburg, Germany and proceeded to harass, rob, and sexually assault hundreds of women. Mob mentality is so dangerous because the members of the group continue to justify each the group’s actions.
What happened to Bigger’s personality after the murder and at what point did he give up on religion?
In a sense, after imprisonment for the murders, Bigger felt a sense of relief. He tells Max, his lawyer, that it may sound bad, but “I ain’t worried none about them women I killed. For a little while I was free…I was doing something (Wright 278). Bigger describes how he felt a little deeper when he says, “I been scared and mad all my life and after I killed that first woman, I wasn’t scared no more for a little while” (Wright 278). Bigger was less tense, he was more or less at peace with his fate.
Bigger talk about his abandonment of religion with Max as well. Max asks Bigger if he could be happy in religion right then, would he be? Bigger replies curtly, “Naw. I’ll be dead soon enough. If I was religious, I’d be dead now” (Wright 280). This is a stark contrast metaphorically saying that religion effectively aids white people in the manipulation of blacks. Essentially, it helps soothe their existence in the hateful society so that white people could more easily take advantage. Like Bessie’s alcohol, religion helps people cope but doesn’t solve any problems.
Who is the insane man? Why does Wright bring him in as a character?
The insane man was a young black man who was brought to the prison from his university screaming. All of the other cell mates just tell Bigger to leave him alone because he is crazy. They say that he was crazy because he was “studying too much at the university…[and had] got to the bottom of why colored folks are treated bad” (Wright 270). I believe Wright brought him into the novel to give the reader and idea of the weight of the burden that the truth about all of the injustices done to black people must have weighed. To be fully conscious about all of the wrongs that had been done to you and your people and why was enough to drive this young man insane.
When witnessing the insane man’s rant, Bigger was fearful that “the man’s driving frenzy would suck him into its hot whirlpool.” The whirlpool represented the overwhelming, drowning sense of truth the insane man was feeling. I believe Bigger knew this, and felt that if he too succumbed to the whirlpool he may never come back.
Today we have much better care facilities for the insane and mentally disabled. In the time that this novel was written, mental health facilities were virtually non existent. Mental health is taken much more seriously today and cases such as the insane man’s would have been handled with more care instead of just strapping him down and carting him away.
How is religion brought out in the work?
Bigger’s mother was extremely religious. She participated in it in Bigger’s eyes much as Bessie participated in alcohol consumption. Bigger saw both as an escape from the world. Bigger even wishes at one point to be able to receive the same comfort from religion that his mother did but knows it will never result in a concrete escape form the racist hatred he endures everyday as a black man.
He inherently wishes for a life far removed from his own, but unfortunately he never gets to experience it. Even in the face of execution, he still refuses the religion and faith Rev. Hammond offers him. The hatred of his world has corrupted everything for him, even the sanctity of Christianity. Religion represents to Bigger, as mentioned above, a coping mechanism, not a solution to a problem. That is why everyone around him seems to be blind.
Religion is a topic of discussion frequently today. Recently, there was much debate on the religious affiliations of the presidential candidates. People value religion. Religion is a deciding factor for a lot of people for even simpler things than their presidential choice. People curb their choices in partner based on religion. And it can affect their school choice. The importance of religion certainly is still very much relevant today.
Point out examples of animal imagery in the work. What do the images represent?
There are two black rats mentioned in the story. One is in the beginning of the piece that was described earlier. The other rat is mentioned Bigger feels trapped in the city after Mary’s bones are found. The rat leaps across the snow and escapes into a hole in the wall where Bigger watches after it “wistfully” (Wright 202). Both of these rats are symbolic of Bigger.
The other significant animal that was described in the piece was Mrs. Dalton’s white cat. The white cat follows Dalton around and he feels watched and pressured by it. When Bigger is disposing of Mary’s body, the cat is there to watch him. In his frenzy, he considers throwing the cat into the furnace too because it knows what he did. Later, the cat seems to look at Bigger with “big round black eyes [with] twin pools of secret guilt” (Wright 186). The white cat is symbolic of the white society. It is also a good symbol because in most of the novel white society takes the body of a singular character; Doc, Mary, etc.
Animal imagery continues to still be widely used. For instance, the republican party is represented as an elephant and the democratic party is represented by the donkey. Animals take on our projections in many other ways, like in the way as the United States’ national bird is the Eagle. Another example of animals taking on other roles are dogs taking on more of a support system role. Many people find support and aid in guidance dogs or emotional support dogs.
Society’s Condemnation: Bigger Thomas
“Southern trees bear strange fruit. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root. Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”-Billie Holliday. Consider being condemned by someone or something even before you were cognizant of their existence. More specifically, this emcompasses the ficticious narrative of Bigger Thomas in the novel Native Son, by Richard Wright. Bigger represents the impoverished African American community of Chicago who is forced into subservience by Whites. Bigger’s struggles also signify some of other common problems that plague the Black community at present such as gang violence and widespread feelings of pessimism in face of oppression. In Book one of the novel Native Son, Wright uses the symbolism and juxtaposition in order to suggest that when one is confined societal norms it perpetuates immense fear and causes one to be violent in response to such confines.
To begin Wright uses the symbols of a rat, a gun and Mrs. Dalton’s blindness in order to establish the societal positionality of bigger and to suggest than when one is confined it causes them to become violent in response. The first book of the novel is titled fear and Wright depicts this initial fear in the lines, “ it reared once more and bared long yellow fangs, piping shrilly… He’s over a foot long” ( Wright 6). The phrases “long yellow fangs” and “over a foot long” depicts the rat as vile creature, which is capable of vast destruction.
Through this illustration of the rat it accomplishes two things: it establishes the impoverished state of the Thomases as their home is overrun with vermin and it emphasizes the portrayal of “fear” of this animal. The symbol of a rat shows the substandard living environment that the whites force blacks into and the inferior position of African Americans on the economic ladder.. More generally, rats tend to dwell in unlit locations where they have access to garbage and food. Rats are seen as a pest and they are mostly undesirable in any home. This notion and widespread connotation of rats causing the Thomases to experience this initial “fear”. Bigger eventually kills the rat but the line “The huge black rat squealed and leaped at Bigger’s trouser-leg” (Wright 5) helps to generate the idea that no matter how hard one struggles they will always fall victim to the system. Similar to the rat, Bigger is a force that is already disliked by the larger White majority and no matter what he does his resistance is futile. He is disadvantaged and like the rat, Bigger is also trapped and he has no choice but to surrender. Subsequently the symbol of a gun is also a compelling factor in the development of book one.
The gun is introduced when Bigger says, “ We better take our guns this time…but I’ll feel safer with a gun this time”. Guns are a typically a symbol of , masculinity, power, and safety, and this can be seen with Bigger and his gun. In a society teeming with oppression and racism, Bigger sees his gun as the only way to resist societal pressures. However this struggle is futile because this material strength doesn’t provide him enough power to resist the institutionalized oppression. Additionally Wright strategically uses Mrs. Dalton’s blindness to represent the view of the world through the “white lens” at this time. Wright introduces this by saying, “ He went to the sink… feeling that she could see him even though he knew that she was blind”. Traditional blindness concerns the loss of sight. However, in a more figurative sense Wright does this to suggest that Ms. Dalton is numb and is not empathetic to the issues of the black community. Mrs. Dalton is also symbolically blind to what black people face. She claims to help educate blacks but contributes to the injustice that has built her husband’s fortune. Furthermore, her blindness reflects the blindness all of white society has to the suffering of the black community. White society fails to see the injustice it causes
To add on, Wright uses juxtaposition in order to further emphasize that when one is pressured by the confines of society, it causes them to be helpless and violent. This can be explicitly seen within Bigger’s interactions with Jan and Mary. This is depicted in the lines, “ She doubled with laughter. He tightened with hate. Again she was looking inside him” (Wright 81)”. The words “laughter” and “hate” are words with remote connotations one dealing with immense joy and the other extreme anger. Wright includes this scene in order to portray the view of Bigger’s world both through a White and an African American lens. Like most other whites Mary is numb to advantages she gains by being white, and this contributes to Bigger’s source of anger. Bigger is enraged and feels that he has to submit to a larger power. Despite this being a misunderstanding Bigger’s hatred is birthed from the intrinsic racism of his society. Overall Wright includes this juxtaposition in order to contrast the view of the world contingent on race. This also emphasize how oppressed groups respond to social confines. Moreover Wright also provides a juxtaposition by describing the living conditions of the Dalton family.