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Native Son by Richard Wright

banned book project
by

Joanna Gonzalez-Mondragon

on 3 August 2011

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Transcript of Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son By Richard Wright [: summary :] Bigger Thomas lives in a rat infested one-room ghetto apartment with his siblings Buddy, Vera, and his mother. That same morning, Bigger has an appointment to see Mr. Dalton for a new job. Feeling trapped, he walks to the poolroom and meets with his friends Gus, G. H., Doc and Jack. They are planning on a robbing a white man, but Bigger tells them that every time he thinks about whites, he feels something terrible is going to happen. They are all afraid of robing a white man, but none of them wants to say so. Before the robbery takes place, Bigger and Jack, go to the movies. They are attracted to the world of wealthy whites in the newsreel and feel strangely moved by the tom-toms and the primitive black people in the film. But they feel they do not belong to either of those worlds. Bigger attacks Gus violently. The fight ends any chance of the robbery to take place. Bigger realizes that he has done this on purpose, hoping stop the robbery. When he finally sees Mr. Dalton at his home, Bigger is intimidated and angry. He does not know how to behave in front of the Daltons. They use strange words. They are kind to Bigger, but they make him very uncomfortable, not knowing what they expect of him. They hire him as the family chauffeur including for their daughter Mary, she enters the room, asks Bigger why he doesn’t belong to a union, calling her father a “capitalist.” After the conversation, Peggy, the cook, takes Bigger to his room and tells him that the Daltons are a nice family but that he must avoid Mary's communist friends. That night he drives Mary to meet her boyfriend, Jan. Jan and Mary infuriate Bigger, because they try to be friends with him, ask him to take them to the poolroom where his friends are, invite him to sit at their table, and tell him to call them by their first names. Then Jan and Mary part, but Mary is so drunk that Bigger has to carry her to her bedroom when they arrive home. He is terrified someone will see him with her in his arms. Just then, the bedroom door opens, It is Mrs. Dalton. Bigger knows she is blind but is terrified she will sense him there. He tries to make Mary still by putting a pillow over her head. Mrs. Dalton approaches the bed, smells whiskey in the air, scolds her daughter, and then leaves. Just then, Bigger notices that Mary is not breathing anymore. She has suffocated. Bigger starts thinking frantically. He decides he will tell everyone that Jan took Mary into the house. Then he thinks it will be better if Mary disappears and everyone thinks she has gone away. In desperation, he decides to burn her body in the house's furnace. He cut her head off in order for the body to fit. He leaves it there to burn putting a lot of coal on top. After the murder and disposal of the body, Bigger has irrevocably changed. The crime has given meaning to his life. When he goes back to the Daltons, Mr. Dalton notices his daughter's disappearance and asks Bigger about the night before. Bigger blames Jan for her disappearance. Mr. Dalton sends Bigger home for the day, and Bigger decides to visit his girlfriend, Bessie, she mentions a famous case in which the kidnappers of a child first killed him and then asked for ransom money. Bigger decides to do the same. He tells Bessie that he knows Mary has disappeared and will use that knowledge to get money from the Daltons, but in the conversation he realizes Bessie suspects him of having done something to Mary. Bigger goes back to work. Mr. Dalton has called a private detective, Mr. Britten. Sensing Britten's racism, Bigger accuses Jan on the grounds of his race (he is Jewish), his political beliefs (communist), and his friendly attitude towards black people. When Britten finds Jan, he puts them in the same room together and confronts them about their conflicting stories. Jan is surprised by Bigger's story but offers him help.Bigger storms away from the Dalton's house. He decides to write the false ransom note when he discovers that the owner of the rat-infested flat his family rents is Mr. Dalton. Bigger slips the note under the Daltons' front door then returns to his room. When the Daltons receive the note, they contact the police, who take over the investigation from Britten, and journalists soon arrive at the house. Bigger is afraid, but he does not want to leave. In the afternoon, he is ordered to take the ashes out of the stove and make a new fire. He is so terrified that he starts poking the ashes with the shovel until the whole room is full of smoke. Furious, one of the journalists takes the shovel and pushes Bigger aside. He immediately finds the remains of Mary's bones and an earring in the stove. Bigger flees.Bigger goes directly to Bessie and tells her the whole story. Bessie realizes that everyone will think he raped the girl before killing her. They leave together, but Bigger has to drag Bessie around because she is paralyzed by fear. When they lie down together in an abandoned building, Bigger rapes her, and he realizes he will have to kill her. He hits Bessie with a brick and then throws her through a window, but he forgets that the only money he had was in her pocket, a symbol of her value to him.
Bigger runs through the city. He sees newspaper headlines concerning the crime and overhears different conversations about it. Whites call him “ape.” Blacks hate him because he has given the whites an excuse for racism. But now he is someone; he feels he has an identity. He will not say the crime was an accident. After a wild chase over the rooftops of the city, the police catch him.
During his first few days in prison, Bigger does not eat, drink, or talk to anyone. Then Jan comes to see him. He says Bigger has taught him a lot about black-white relationships and offers him the help of a communist lawyer, Max. In the long hours Max and Bigger pass together, Max learns about the sufferings and feelings of black people and Bigger learns about himself. He starts understanding his relationships with his family and with the world. He acknowledges his fury, his need for a future, and his wish for a meaningful life. He reconsiders his attitudes about white people, whether they are prejudiced, like Britten, or liberal, like Jan.At Bigger's trial, Max tells the jury that Bigger killed because he was cornered by society from the moment he was born. He tells them that a way to stop the evil sequence of abuse and murder is to sentence Bigger to life in prison and not to death. But the jury does not listen to him. In the last scene, while he waits for death, Bigger tells Max, “I didn't know I was really alive in this world until I felt things hard enough to kill for 'em.” Bigger then tells him to say “hello” to Jan. For the first time, he calls him “Jan,” not “Mister,” just as Jan had wanted. Then Max leaves, and Bigger is alone. Awaiting death. Thematic Statements The author explains the importance of thinking before you act or do something about a situation. When Bigger’s was in Mary’s room he did not want Ms. Dalton to know he there with Mary yet alone with him when she was standing at the door in desperation he "caught a corner of the pillow and covered her entire face with it, firmly."(pg85). This was done so "[Mary would not] move or make any sound that would betray him." Wright shows in detail how difference with African Americans and whites. The "black world" is like a black hell the whites is like a "bright heaven"(137). They are very different in many ways by they talk, even where they live. He also talks about meaning in life. Before Bigger’s had anything to do he did not really see nothing great about his life no meaning. In the book he explains to Max how he fells “I didn’t know I was really alive in this world until I felt things hard enough to kill for’em”(pg429).
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