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Native Son

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Courtney McCune

on 1 May 2011

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Transcript of Native Son

A passage from Native Son By: Richard Wright Book Three: Fate "If only ten or twenty Negros had been put into slavery, we could call it injustice, but there were hundreds of thousands of them throughout the country. If this state of affairs had lasted for two or three years, we could say it was unjust. Injustice that lasts for three centuries and which exists among millions of people over thousands of square miles of territory, is injustice no longer; it is an accomplished fact of life... What is happening here today is not injustice, but oppression... And it is this new form of life that has grown up here in our midst that puzzles us, that expresses itself,
like a weed growing from under a stone, in terms we call a crime... How can law contradict the lives of millions of people and hope to be administered successfully? Do we believe in magic? Do you believe by burning a cross you can frighten a multitude, paralyze their will and impulse?... In your rage and guilt, make thousands of other black men and women feel that the barriers are tighter and higher! Kill him and swell the tide of pent-up lava that will some day break loose, not in a single, accidental, individual crime, but in a wild cataract of emotion that will brook no control... this boy's way of life was a way of guilt; that his crime existed long before the murder of Mary Dalton; that the accidental nature of his crime took the guise of a sudden and violent rent in the veil behind which he lived, a rent which allowed his feelings of resentment and estrangment to leap forth and find objective and concrete form. Richard Nathaniel Wright (September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960) was an American author of powerful, sometimes controversial novels, short stories and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes. His work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.
Native Son (1940) is a novel by American author Richard Wright. The novel tells the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s. Bigger was always getting into trouble as a youth, but upon receiving a job at the home of the Daltons, a rich, white family, he experienced a realization of his identity. He thinks he accidentally killed a white woman, runs from the police, rapes and kills his girlfriend and is then caught and tried. "I didn't want to kill", Bigger shouted. "But what I killed for, I am! It must've been pretty deep in me to make me kill." Bigger truly believes that the unbearable pressures placed on black men in a white society is what caused him to kill the white woman.
Approximately 650,000 African Americans were enslaved in the US from the 16th to the 19th century. Injustice is the violation of the rights of others; unjust or unfair action or treatment. Blacks recieved a maximum form of injustice in which they had no rights at all. Even their unalienable rights were stripped away. Blacks had suffered from hatred and inequality for so long they did not know another way of life. Over the generations, they became accustomed to being looked down upon. Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. Because the whites completely took away African American's rights, they have complete control over the race. Whites even killed blacks solely because of their skin color. White oppression has led to a "new form of life." Blacks, like Bigger, are scared to make mistakes because society puts so much negative pressure on them. The horrid inequality faced by blacks makes them crack under the pressure. This new form of life is a life of rebellion and struggle. Blacks became so tired of oppression that they had to find any way to fight it. This similie compares African American's lives to a "weed growing out from under a stone." In comparison, the stone symbolizes the white opressors trying to hold back the black race, or weed, from its freedom. While the whites try so hard to keep the blacks from reaching its dreams of breaking free, no one can stop a race of people who fight a common battle, the battle for equality. The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[ that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it..." The Declaration cleraly states that all men are created equal, and they have unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, the government "contradicts" itself becuase they have taken away virtually all of the black's unalienable rights solely because of the color of their skin. The document also states when the government becomes destructive of these ends, the people have the right to alter it. Blacks are doing just this through their struggle for equality. They simply want the government to follow the rules set forth for their country centuries ago. In the early twentieth century, the KKK burnt crosses on hillsides or near the homes of those blacks they wished to intimidate.

The more whites restricted the blacks, the more African Americans wanted to break free from the shackles of society. Wright's use of imagery
and metaphor of comparing
the black race to lava pent up
in a volcano illustrates how all
the mounting pressures on blacks
will eventually cause them to erupt
and break free from total control. Whites would find any way possible to get rid of lower-class
blacks like Bigger. It was basically a crime to have black skin
because if they made any wrong move, whites would punish them.
Because of the constant pressures Bigger faces from whites, a seed
of rebellion was planted in him long before the murder.
After the many years of discrimination Bigger faced, his entrapped inner feelings of resentment towards society burst out in a fatal blow. This rage took "concrete form" in
Bigger's horrible actions toward Mary. This passage written by Wright proves how the African
American's struggle for equality can turn deadly. The black race had been opressed for so long that they eventually had to break free from their controllers. Unfortunately, Bigger's revolt against whites led to the death of Mary Dalton.
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