Theme Of Rat Metaphor In Native Son By Richard Wright

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In Richard Wright’s Native Son, “rat metaphor” is referring to the opening scene of in which Bigger’s mother catches sight of a rat running around in their family bedroom. The mother shrieks in fear, and demands that Bigger kill it. Bigger chases the rat around the room with a skillet, skillfully dodging the rat’s feeble attempts at attacking Bigger, until finally he through the skillet and struck the rat dead. The entire passage is dramatic, with detailed descriptions on the rat’s movements and reactions. When Bigger steps towards the rat, it “emitted a long thin song of defiance, its black beady eyes glittering, its tiny forefeet pawing the air restlessly.” The rat runs to the other side of the room, and then “it reared once more and bared…show more content…
When Bigger’s mother discovers the rat and screams, it darts around the room looking for a place to hide. Bigger is apprehensive about going toe-to-toe with the rat and hitting it with a skillet, but also doesn’t want to throw it in case he misses. Even though Bigger is stronger than the rat, he still is afraid the rate could escape and be free. Similar to the rat, Bigger fears white people and the authority they hold over him. The relationship between Bigger and the rat, therefore, is based on mutual fear, just as the relationship between black people and white people in Native Son is based on mutual fear. In the beginning of the book, Bigger comes up with a plan to rob a store owned by a white man, and then backs out of it at the last second because he is afraid to rob a white man. Later, after realizing he had accidentally killed Mary, “[t]he reality of the room fell from him; the vast city of white people that sprawled outside took it’s place... He was a murderer, a Negro murderer, a black murderer. He had killed a white woman.” (pg 100) What Bigger does not know is that white people fear him as well; they fear black people’s potential to rise up and fight oppression rather than cower in fear of it. As spoken by Mr. Max in his closing argument and referring to the white people, “If that mob outdoors is afraid of one man, what will…show more content…
On the surface, the reader meant to feel apathetic towards Bigger. His personality is not one that people feel naturally empathetic for; even in today’s world, Bigger would be written off as a “bum” and “the reason why Civil Rights is not taken seriously”. He does not fit into the mold of what white society wants black people to be; some people, like the Daltons, want black people to be grateful towards them for the “donations” they gave, and others like Britten and Buckley want black people to know their place in this world, which is below white people. This may seem counterintuitive to Wright’s goal as a Civil Rights activist and active supporter of Communism, and maybe to some degree it is, but the purpose of writing Bigger as a person whose only method of dealing with conflict is violence is to prove that it is not right to pick and choose what black lives to care about. If Wright made a character that, in the eyes of most (white) readers, would’ve been less of a “menace to society” he would’ve been watering down his argument. The point of Native Son is that all black people, whether they be submissive or assertive, spiteful or
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