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Native Son

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Roshni Gorur

on 20 May 2013

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Transcript of Native Son

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Images from Shutterstock.com Scholarly Article & Analysis This article talks about how Native Son, just as the alarm clock that begins the novel is intended to wake up Bigger, is intended to wake up the American people. Native Son is actually based off of several real court cases: the trial of Robert Nixon, the Scottsboro Boys case, and the prosecution of Leob and Leopold. The central argument of the book, the article claims, is that Bigger is a true “Native Son” of society, that he is exactly what they expect him to be. Through the media in the book, such as the newspaper stories covering the trial, the depictions of bigger as an “ape” and “negro sex-slayer” are used to show the corruptness of media and skewed opinions of the community. Also, the book continually engenders women, as Mary is depicted by the media to be a pillar of virginity and purity, white in more ways than one. And race is also disabling in the book. Max, the one who perhaps most understands Bigger, claims that his race is a handicap, that he is a “native son” because his race gave him no other opportunity. Max essentially claims that Bigger carried out his crimes because of his blackness. The perceptions of women and race is perhaps most clear in the case of Bessie, Bigger’s girlfriend who he raped and murdered. Instead of being tried for his crimes against Bessie, her body is simply used as evidence that Bigger is capable of carrying out such heinous offenses. Bessie is simply a symbol to the white masses, and so is Bigger. Bigger is a scapegoat for the crimes of many blacks throughout Chicago, and he is put to death to deter other blacks from trespassing the racial division. Essentially, Bigger is accused of breaking both black and white letter law. Black letter law being the actual murder of Mary, in that murder of anyone by anyone is wrong, and white letter law in that Bigger is black and should not have even been near Mary. That it was ultimately his crossing of social barriers that he was put to death for. Book Information Genre: Urban Naturalism Fiction
Narrative Style and Persona: The story is narrated in third person-- limited to Bigger.
Atmosphere: Gloomy, dark, Grim, ambivalent, indignant; a sense of rejection.
Setting: Chicago
Local Color: - Very segregated
-Blacks live in Chicago’s south side a.k.a the “black belt”
-The richer Blacks lived in tenants farther South
-The poorer Blacks lived in the slums farther North (still in the South Side)
-All the other residential areas of the city “allowed” Blacks if they could afford it
Time Period: 1930s
Attributes of the Time Period: Bigger’s speech has been affected by the ghetto he lives in making his language full of slang and curse words
When dealing with higher class Bigger’s elementary speech becomes somewhat better because he cuts the cursing and adds “yes sir” or “no sir”
Black youth fill their time by committing crimes or working to help support the family while White youth go to school and go out and fun in the city Big Questions and Humanity 1. Should we sympathize with Bigger, or condemn him for his actions?
2. What, if anything, redeems Bigger?
3. How much has the influence of race in murder charges really changed since the 1940s?
Great Unanswered Question: Who is at fault, Society or the Individual?

To Be Human:
“Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.”
“Violence is a personal necessity for the oppressed...It is not a strategy consciously devised. It is the deep, instinctive expression of a human being denied individuality.”

Both of these quotes from Native Son succinctly summarize the book's handle on humanity. Essentially, violence is an innate quality in human beings that will appear from oppression. Humanity is the product of society, while at the same time, society perpetuates the standards for humanity. Racial prejudice and inequality will inevitably lead to oppression, and violence is a rightful reaction to this oppression. Wright basically states that humanity is not simply black and white, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. NATIVE SON
-Richard Wright Emily, Josh, Nicole, Roshni Richard Wright was born in 1908 in Mississippi. He graduated as valedictorian of his junior high school. He enrolled in High School, but dropped out in order to earn money for his family. In 1927 he moved to Chicago, working as a postal clerk while studying writing techniques. In 1933, he joined the Communist Party, writing many poems for the cause. In 1937 he moved to New York City, where he wrote over 200 articles for the Daily Worker. He first gained national attention for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a collection of four short stories. Native Son followed in 1940, the first bestselling novel by a Black American writer, and Wright was awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for it. To escape the racism he felt within the communist party, Wright moved to Paris in 1946. He continued to write, including a second novel The Outsider and various nonfiction pieces and essays. Due to McCarthyism, Wright was blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1950s, although he did star as Bigger Thomas in the film adaptation of Native Son. He continued to make political statements and write until his death in Paris in 1960. Author Biography Movie Clips Richard Wright stars as Bigger in the 1968 Film of Native Son
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