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Native Son By Richard Wright Essay

2400 words - 10 pages

Native Son by Richard Wright Who is the victim in a prejudiced civilization? The dominant group or the minority? "Native Son," a novel by Richard Wright, focuses on the effects of racism on the oppressors and the oppressed. It establishes that in an ethnically prejudiced society discrimination comes from everywhere, and most monumental occurrences only contribute to its decline. The story is set in Chicago in the 1930s. The protagonist of the narrative lives in a world of inferiority; in a society where he will never succeed or be able to live up its standards simply because he is black. The author exploits this theme of racism and allows the reader to identify with a way of life that they are unexposed to.
The protagonist and main character of the novel is Bigger Thomas. He is a twenty year old black man who lives in a cramped, rat- infested apartment with his family. From the beginning, we see his inadequacy through his home life and other actions. "A huge back rat squealed and leaped at Bigger's trouser- leg and snagged it in his teeth, hanging on" (page 5). The black people in the community were forced to live in impoverished neighborhoods, the South Side, with mediocre resources and goods, and little opportunity for education. Bigger had lived a life defined by fear and anger toward the whites who overpower him. He and his friends commit crimes, but only against other blacks; the group is too afraid to rob a white man. They succumb to a lower standard by stealing instead of working. When the group finally decides to try to rob a white man, it doesn't work. The plan falls through after Bigger starts a fight with one of the guys who comes late. "Bigger was afraid of robbing a white man and he knew that Gus was afraid, too… He hated Gus because he knew that Gus was afraid, as even he was; and he feared Gus because he felt that Gus would consent and then he would be compelled to go through with the robbery" (25). Bigger hates his race and wishes he could escape the oppression. He isn't proud of being black and sees it as an impediment and a burden. These views of his own race allow him to pilfer from them with no remorse. He and his friends clandestinely envy the freedom that white people experience. He longs to enjoy their privileges but doesn't know how to release himself of the racial boundaries: ‘"Them white boys sure can fly," Gus said. "Yeah," bigger said wistfully. "They get a chance to do everything."… "I could fly a plane if I had a chance," Bigger said. "If you wasn't black and if you had some money and if they'd let you go to aviation school, you could fly a plane," Gus said' (16-17). Racism has curtailed Bigger's...

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