The Necessity of Violence in Native Son by Richard Wright

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In Native Son, Richard Wright uses characterization and symbolism to underscore his theme of how American institutionalized oppression of blacks creates human tragedy for those oppressed. Yet, the novel is not an attempt to merit our sympathy or empathy for the condition of repressed blacks, it is to illustrate how the nihilistic attitude of blacks like Bigger Thomas is the direct result of white repression of differences in non-white cultures. In other words, Bigger's only option is death because the society which has created him has given him nothing else to care about, nothing he can call his own, no chance to explore any of his potential. Thus, he turns to violence as an expression of identity which is what his reaction to reading the newspaper expresses. When he reads the article in the paper, he exclaims to his mother, "No! Jan didn't help me! He didn't have a damned thing to do with it! I - I did it!" (Wright 283). His act of violence is his only affirmation of self in a society that represses any other form of self-affirmation and he desperately clings to it. Even the alarm clock that rings in the beginning of the novel is a symbol. It is a symbol Wright uses as a "wake up" call to a society that remains locked in illusions regarding its creation of race relations that makes Bigger always someone who is "following a strange path in a strange land" (Wright 127). This is why Bigger's communist lawyer tells the court that Bigger is incapable of killing because he is already dead as he is forced to exist in a society that refuses him any affirmation of life. Bigger is a displaced person because the society into which he is born allows him no place. He is Ellison's "invisible man" who is destined to fall be... ... middle of paper ... ... of modern American society's institutionalized oppression. WORKS CITED "Richard Wright." Chapman, R. (ed.) Black Voices. New York, Penguin Books, 1968: 113-114. "Richard Wright Biography." http://www.math.buffalo.edu/~sww/wright/wright_bio.html March 20, 1999: 1-5. "Richard Wright; Homegrown: Bigger Thomas as a Product of His Environment." http://www.loras.edu/~ENG/faculty/fretz/Page12.html March 20, 1999: 1-2. "'Without the Consolation of Tears': Richard Wright, France, and the Ambivalence of Community." Gilroy, P. (ed.) The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Mass., Harvard Univ. Press, 1993: 146-186. Wright, R. "How Bigger Was Born." Chapman, R. (ed.) Black Voices. New York, Penguin Books, 1968: 538-563. Wright, R. Native Son. New York, HarperCollins, 1993.
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