Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright's novel tells the unforgettable story of Bigger Thomas, a brutal murderer caught in a cycle of racism and poverty in inner-city America. This guide presents a comprehensive critical look at this important work, delving into both its literary significance and social impact.
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Bigger Thomas is doomed, trapped in a downward spiral that will lead to arrest, prison, or death, driven by despair, frustration, poverty, and incomprehension. As a young black man in the Chicago of the '30s, he has no way out of the walls of poverty and racism that surround him, and after he murders a young white woman in a moment of panic, these walls begin to close in. There is no help for him--not from his hapless family; not from liberal do-gooders or from his well-meaning yet naive friend Jan; certainly not from the police, prosecutors, or judges. Bigger is debased, aggressive, dangerous, and a violent criminal. As such, he has no claim upon our compassion or sympathy. And yet...
A more compelling story than Native Son has not been written in the 20th century by an American writer. That is not to say that Richard Wright created a novel free of flaws, but that he wrote the first novel that successfully told the most painful and unvarnished truth about American social and class relations. As Irving Howe asserted in 1963, "The day Native Son appeared, American culture was changed forever. It made impossible a repetition of the old lies [and] brought out into the open, as no one ever had before, the hatred, fear and violence that have crippled and may yet destroy our culture."
Other books had focused on the experience of growing up black in America--including Wright's own highly successful Uncle Tom's Children, a collection of five stories that focused on the victimization of blacks who transgressed the code of racial segregation. But they suffered from what he saw as a kind of lyrical idealism, setting up sympathetic black characters in oppressive situations and evoking the reader's pity. In Native Son, Wright was aiming at something more. In Bigger, he created a character so damaged by racism and poverty, with dreams so perverted, and with human sensibilities so eroded, that he has no claim on the reader's compassion:
"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! I must have felt it awful hard to murder.... What I killed for must've been good!" Bigger's voice was full of frenzied anguish. "It must have been good! When a man kills, it's for something... I didn't know I was really alive in this world until I felt things hard enough to kill for 'em. It's the truth..."Wright's genius was that, in preventing us from feeling pity for Bigger, he forced us to confront the hopelessness, misery, and injustice of the society that gave birth to him. --Andrew Himes From the Back Cover:
Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.
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Book Description Perennial Library. Book Condition: Good. . Bookseller Inventory # L10D-01602
Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: Good. The book has been read but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact and the cover is intact. Some minor wear to the spine. Bookseller Inventory # GOR001412798
Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, 1972. Soft cover. Book Condition: Good. Penguin Books Ltd 1st 1972 p/b. good overall condition with tanning to pages and light wear to covers. Swiftly posted from the u/k. Bookseller Inventory # ABE-1483616671944
Book Description Penguin Books, New York, 1979. Softcover. Book Condition: Gut. Taschenbuch mit leichten Gebrauchsspuren - Papier etwas gebräunt. Bookseller Inventory # 012753
Book Description Pengiun Books Ltd, England, United Kingdom, 1981. Soft cover. Book Condition: Fair. No Jacket. A Penguin Modern Classic. A reprint from 1981. Illustrated cover - designed by Germano Facetti, shows a detail from a cover of a theatre programme designed for 'Porgy and Bess' by William Grooper. With an introduction by the author. Cover is creased at corners and rubbed along edges. #16.25. Bookseller Inventory # 000659
Book Description Book Condition: Used; Very Good. Bookseller Inventory # A5742
Book Description Pengiun, UK, 1981. Soft cover. Book Condition: Good. Light reading wear. Very clean interior. Bookseller Inventory # 000934
Book Description Penguin Books Ltd. Paperback. Book Condition: POOR. Noticeably used book. Heavy wear to cover. Pages contain marginal notes, underlining, and or highlighting. Possible ex library copy, with all the markings/stickers of that library. Accessories such as CD, codes, toys, and dust jackets may not be included. Bookseller Inventory # 2581477699
Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, 1972. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. New Ed. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. May not contain Access Codes or Supplements. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Bookseller Inventory # 0140034811