Native Son Essay: The Tragedy

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Native Son: The Tragedy

Richard Wright's Native Son a very moving novel. Perhaps this is largely due to Wright's skillful merging of his narrative voice with Bigger's which allows the reader to feel he is also inside Bigger's skin. There is no question that Bigger is a tragic figure, even an archetypical one, as he represents the African American experience of oppression in America. Wright states in the introduction, however, that there are Biggers among every oppressed people throughout the world, arguing that many of the rapidly changing and uncertain conditions of the modern world, a modern world largely founded on imperialism and exploitation, have created people like Bigger, restless and adrift, searching for a
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An anonymous black cell-mate, a university student jailed by his professor for working on a book about black oppression in America, shouts to the white guards, "You make us live in such crowded conditions...that one out of every ten of us is insane...you dump all the stale foods into the Black Belt and sell them for more than you can get anywhere else...you tax us, but you won't build hospitals...the schools are so crowded that they breed perverts... you hire us last and fire us first..." (pg. 318). Though this itemized listing is impressive, nowhere is this sense of constriction more telling than in Bigger's action of the accidental murder of Mary Dalton. The unfocused, yet all-encompassing, fear that the white world has bred in Bigger takes over when he is in Mary's room and in danger of being discovered by Mrs. Dalton. This internalized social oppression literally forces his hand when he holds the pillow over Mary's face, for he knows no white person would believe he was not trying to rape Mary. As Bigger tells Max, "They believe that. ...when folks say things like that about you, you whipped before you born." In this same conversation, Bigger's sense of lifelong hopelessness is plain when he says, "I don't have to do nothing for 'em to get me. The first white finger they point at me, I'm a goner, see?" (pg. 325). Yet Bigger says elsewhere that he always felt he would come to a violent end, that

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