The Destructive Effects Of Racism On Bigger Thomas

1687 words - 7 pages


THESIS: Bigger Thomas represents the black man’s condition and his revolt against the injustices of the white caste society.

When one looks at the contribution of blacks in the world of American literature, Richard Wright is considered one of the great contributors. Truly one of his books which highlights the black’s view of American society has to be Native Son. In Native Son, Richard Wright creates the characterization of “native sons” who are products of American civilization. From his own life experience, he portrays in Bigger Thomas a combination of character traits that illustrate persons who have lost meaning in their lives. Bigger Thomas represents the black man’s condition and his revolt against the injustices of the white caste society.

Richard Wright creates Bigger Thomas into a social symbol for Americans by making him a victim of oppression. Bigger, as well as all other African Americans, is forced to live in poverty. He lives in a crowded, dirty apartment with his mother, brother, and sister. His only way of seeing the white world is through the lives of the Dalton family, his rich employers (Smith 392).

An important factor in Wright’s development of Bigger is the struggle to keep power from the Black society. White men wants the Negro to be restricted from as much control as possible, “for had he had a chance to vote, he would have automatically controlled the richest lands of the South and with them the social, political, and economic destiny of a third of the Republic” (Wright Bigger X1).

Bigger is an ideal portrait of a product of Western culture. Bigger has little control over his life. “Wright builds up rather extensive documentation to prove that Bigger’s actions, behavior, values, attitudes, and fate have already been determined by his status and place in American life” (Margolies Art 1). Bigger is alienated from any kind of relationship. “[Wright] claimed he valued the ‘state of abandonment, aloneness.’ In this he was, finally, a true product of Western culture” (Discovering 5).

Western culture places Bigger, as well as other African Americans, in a position where they are expected to be submissive to whites. Bigger sees violence as the only alternative to “dumb submission to a dehumanizing lot” (Margolies Study 65-66). In Native Son, Bigger claims that the murder of Mary Dalton, his employer's daughter, is not intentional. “But really I never wanted to hurt nobody. That’s the truth...I hurt folks ‘cause I felt I had to; that’s all. They were crowding me too close; they wouldn’t let me...Mr. Max, I didn’t mean to do what I did. I was trying to do something else” [sic] (Smith 393).

In Native Son, fear and hate are determining factors in Bigger’s life. The root of all of Bigger’s fears is realization of what he, as a black man, has to endure and will become (Margolies Art 2). Bigger attacks his friends...


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