Race And Racism In Richard Wright's Native Son

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"The dramatic conflict of Native Son takes place chiefly within the mind of the leading character, Bigger Thomas, who lives in a world of Illusion and Dreams sprinkled with colors of whites, blacks, and reds. To Bigger, all of life is Conflict and Issues, flooded with color…" (Amis 240). It was this sense of color that overwhelmed people during the 1930s. This was a turbulent time in America for race relations. Despite the decline of anti-racial organizations, racism was as strong as ever, especially in Chicago. In Richard Wright's novel, Native Son, readers are made aware of the racial tension and perspectives of each race and how it affected the other. The story's main character, Bigger Thomas, is engulfed in symbols of color and race throughout the book, as Wright uses them as a tool for the readers to understand the issues and effects of race. "Sure it was all a game, and white people knew how to play it. And rich white people were not so hard on Negroes; because it was poor whites who hated Negroes. They hated Negroes because they didn't have their share of their money" (Wright 33). This excerpt from the beginning of the novel is a window opening the idea of racism to the book. While it is not the first time race is mentioned, this specific explanation helps readers understand the type of ideologies of race represented in the story and during the time period it takes place. After getting hired to work for the Daltons, Bigger meets Mr. and Mrs. Dalton. He believes that Mr. Dalton is disingenuous when it comes to how he acts towards people of the black race. Even though he donates money to organizations that he thinks will benefit blacks and improve their lives, he does nothing to help the living conditions of those who live... ... middle of paper ... ...n. Symbolism is an important tool for readers to use to understand underlying messages and themes in the book that are not so clearly written. The backbone of the story of Bigger Thomas is color, which is mentioned on nearly every page. The way color is connected to certain people and things, such as Peggy, the Dalton Family, Jan, Britten, and Bigger's family and friends, the embers in the furnace, the Dalton's cat, and the snow, is a link for readers to more easily understand the point of the effects of racism that Richard Wright is trying to get across. Bigger's frequent return to the furnace and constant referral to color points out how important this symbolism is to the story. Color is found in the subtext, since it is not always clearly stated. Finding the underlying meaning is one of the important reasons Native Son is such an influential book concerning race.
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