"Native Son" Prevalence Of A Color Caste Hierarchy

701 words - 3 pages

In Chicago during the 1930s, stereotypes were placed on African-Americans and Communists that resulted in harsh treatment against these groups of people. The brutal forces of racism and discrimination made it extremely difficult for an ethnic or political minority to function freely in society. This social stratification based on color, a color caste hierarchy, describes how white is viewed as superior to red – representing the Communists – and black. In Native Son, Richard Wright argues that this color caste hierarchy is the basis for the ostracization of Bigger Thomas, the hatred of Communism, and the general fear of minorities in society.
To start, Bigger feels ostracized from the world because of the color caste hierarchy. Bigger alludes to this himself when he says that white men live “right down here in my stomach” (Wright 21). This statement expresses Bigger’s internal fear of whites. Later, when Bigger is caught having murdered Mary, the daughter of the family he was working for, he flees the scene by jumping out a second-story window into the snow. Wright uses a repetitive syntax along with imagery to use Bigger’s leap as a metaphor for his apprehension of white society. He writes, “Snow was in [Bigger’s] mouth, eyes, ears; snow was seeping down his back” (Wright 220). The white snow surrounding Bigger overwhelms him, much like the white people, serving as a great force pressing down upon him. Additionally, the Black Belt, the only area of housing in Chicago’s South Side that sells real estate to blacks, is enclosed on all sides by white residential areas. Bigger thinks that the whites keep him “bottled up here like wild animals” (Wright 249), further conducing his mental banishment. The glorification of white over black creates a color caste hierarchy that contributes to Bigger’s feeling of ostracization.
In addition to the loathing of blacks, the color caste hierarchy fosters a hatred for Communism. Even before Bigger knew what Communism was, he was aware that he was supposed to abhor its advocates and associate their color, red, with despicable values and traits. Bigger uses this stereotype to his advantage, addressing a ransom note from a “Red” to...

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