Portrayal of Discrimination of African Americans in a Novel Native Son 

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

Discrimination has been an on-going issue in the United States for many years. African Americans have been continuous victims of this issue. Outspoken members of the black communities began to speak out about the concerns of this issue and worked diligently to work towards equality for all. Amongst those brave activists was the writer Richard Wright, who wrote numerous pieces of literature to help spread awareness to America about the woes of being black during these unjust times. One of his most known works is the book Native Son. Native Son was written to give America the opportunity to walk in an African American male’s shoes to see the emotional, economical, and mental effects of discrimination in the 1930’s.

Money is the root of all evil is an old phrase that holds truth whether one has the money or trying to obtain it. Economically, America was built on the idea of working in exchange for money to obtain essentials and things desired. Unfortunately, discriminatory ways of America did not allow persons of color the equal opportunity to do so, especially in the early 1900’s. In the book, write illustrates the financial hardships of a young black man, Bigger Thomas, growing up in the south-side of Chicago. He is created an unfortunate situation due to the color of his skin. He is African American, which disqualifies him from receiving proper or higher education to make more money. His family is poor and living in an overpopulated apartment with substantially high rent. Bigger is forced to work to help ends meet. He works for the landlord, Mr. Dalton, as a chauffeur. During the job, he was seduced by the landlord’s daughter and later he accidentially kills her. The need for the money brought him to the situation, and the evil prevailed through the unintentional crime. The crime is committed and the body is discarded in the furnace and he continues the job. Bigger comes up with a plan to collect ransom money since he’s masterminded the disappearance of Dalton’s dauther. Mr. Thomas feels as though white people are the reason for his demise so he does not feel remorse and wants more. Here, Wright displays that the economical need has morphed into greed. The economical woe has now created emotions that are far beyond Bigger Thomas’ control.

Emotions are derived from one’s circumstance, mood, and/or relationship with oneself or individuals. In the novel, Wright composes a story of a young man who is forced to be subjected to a circumstance in which he had no control. He’s a black man that is uneducated, working a low wage job, and extensively high rent in an undesirable neighborhood. This depicts African Americans at the mercy of white America in the 1930’s. A black person’s life had limitations that no matter how hard they tried, they would be right were the oppressors wanted them to be. The landlord knew about the financial struggles of African American families because he “supported” their outreach groups and schools, yet, he continuously raised rent, did not allow black families in predominantly white neighborhoods, and maintained unreasonably low wages for workers. He then expresses the emotion associated with the oppression like a ticking time bomb in a box. No matter what boundaries were drawn, eventually emotions explode and cause the mental to be at risk of losing it all.

Mental status is a product of a person’s current life with many possible variables. Native Son introduces the mental when the main character is assessing his current situation: black, broke, and uncomfortable. Being confined to this circumstance puts the main character’s mind in the position that he will either kill himself to put himself out of his misery or he will lash out and eventually hurt someone else. Most blacks carried this same mind frame because mentally they were drained from being oppressed with what seemed like no way out. The main character pushes him to live the right way and get a job to manage despite frustrations. This is depiction of constantly battling oneself. Although blacks despised the way things went, they suffered through it because they needed to make something out of the nothing they were limited to. When introducing the landlord/Bigger’s employer, Wright shares insight of the oppressors view. He was a white man that knew the issues that blacks faced and used them to conduct schemes to maintain them where he wanted. For instance, he raised rent in the black neighborhood to keep them working and would not allow them to move in his predominantly white neighborhoods to keep them where he felt they deserved to live. He knew the behaviors and practices he was exhibiting were cruel and to ease his mind he donated to “help’ ‘ them. Many whites felt the need to extend themselves into black communities to make them cope with the idea of mistreating the African American people. Mentally both blacks and whites had issues that bothered them.

In conclusion, Richard Wright’s novel Native Son illustrates the product of the prejudice of America and its direct and indirect effects on African Americans. He uses the main character to show aspects of black lives that most did not understand. Being the voice of the community helped spread awareness and hopefully a change of how America viewed African Americans so they could progress towards equality.


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