Dehumanization, Power, And Shame In Native Son, By Richard Wright

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The majority white society of America oppresses black people; from slavery to sharecropping and modern racism, their place in society has been determined by the white people in power, especially in the early twentieth century. This is showcased in the 1940 novel Native Son written by Richard Wright. The main character of this story, Bigger Thomas, is a symbol the urban black male population of the time. However, it is apparent throughout the story that their lives are predetermined and controlled by the white people in power, and nothing they do can change that fact. The themes of dehumanization, power, and shame are used throughout the book to show this extent of the marginalization of black people in the early twentieth century Chicago. …show more content…
By forcing them down due to their race, white people make them hate that part of themselves. This is seen especially with the strong motif of black versus white. Throughout the story, Bigger takes note of color before anything else. The stark contrast is prevalent in this scene, “If that white looming mountain of hate were not a mountain at all … A strong counter-emotion waxed in him … that it would lead him to but another blind alley, to deeper hate and shame” (361). Here, Bigger compares white society to a “white looming mountain of hate”, and the realization that this mountain is made of individual people frightens him. He feels ashamed that individual humans have the power to control him and that he had made them out to be an overwhelming mass. This is his realization that whether someone is white or black, they are still human. He is also scared and ashamed that he could be wrong in this assumption. His whole life leading up to this moment could have been for nothing, so he buries his shame and fear as to not deal with it, giving power to the whites once more by acknowledging what they hold over him.

Bigger’s fate in this novel is predetermined. From the first scene with the rat we know he will die. This is because the white men in power, such as Mr. Dalton, exert their power over black citizens so they can earn more money and power for themselves. The shame and powerlessness they feel makes them despise their African American heritage, and themselves, so the whites in power marginalize them to benefit

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