Bigger as a Reflection of Society in Native Son
In Native Son, Wright employs Naturalistic ideology and imagery, creating the character of Bigger Thomas, who seems to be composed of a mass of disruptive emotions rather than a rational mind joined by a soul. This concept introduces the possibility that racism is not the only message of the novel, that perhaps every person would feel as isolated and alone as Bigger does were he trapped in such a vicious cycle of violence and oppression. Bigger strives to find a place for himself, but the blindness he encounters in those around him and the bleak harshness of the Naturalistic society that Wright presents the reader with close him out as effectively as if they had shut a door in his face. In the first book, Wright tells the reader "these were the rhythms of his life: indifference and violence; periods of abstract brooding and periods of intense desire; moments of silence and moments of anger -- like water ebbing and flowing from the tug of a far-away, invisible force" (p.31). Bigger is controlled by forces that he cannot tangibly understand. The society seems to bear down upon him like a weight, and only by being nonconformist to all philosophies does Bigger feel that he can throw off that weight of oppression and misunderstanding.
Bigger's many acts of violence are, in effect, a quest for a soul. He desires an identity that is his alone. Both the white and the black communities have robbed him of dignity, identity, and individuality. The human side of the city is closed to him, and for the most part Bigger relates more to the faceless mass of the buildings and the mute body of the city than to another human being. He constantly sums up his feelings of frustration as wanting to "blot out" those around him, as they have effectively blocked him out of their lives by assuming that he will fail in any endeavor before he tries. He has feelings, too, of fear, as Wright remarks "He was following a strange path in a strange land" (p.127). His mother's philosophy of suffering to wait for a later reward is equally stagnating -- to Bigger it appears that she is weak and will not fight to live. Her religion is a blindness; but she needs to be blind in order to survive, to fit into a society that would drive a "seeing" person mad. All of the characters that Bigger says are blind are living in darkness because the light is too painful.
Bigger wants to break through that blindness, to discover something of worth in himself, thinking that "all one had to do was be bold, do something nobody ever thought of. The whole things came to him in the form of a powerful and simple feeling; there was in everyone a great hunger to believe that made them blind, and if he could see while others were blind, then he could get what he wanted and never be caught at it" (p.120). Just as Bigger later hides himself amidst the catacombs of the old buildings, many people hide themselves deep within their minds in order...