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Native son

Native Son
In Native Son, by Richard Wright, the main character is 20 year old Bigger Thomas. Growing up poor, uneducated, and angry at the whole world, it is almost obvious that Bigger is going to have a rough life. Anger, frustration, and violence are habits for him. He is an experienced criminal, and unable to handle with his wild mood swings, Bigger often explodes in fits of crazy, aggressive outrage. Bigger has grown up with the opinion that he simply has no control over his life. In his mind, he can’t ever be anything more than an unskilled, low-wage laborer. He is forced to take a job as a chauffeur for the Daltons to avoid having to watch his own family starve. Strangely, Mr. Dalton is Bigger’s landlord; he owns most of the company that manages the apartment building where Bigger’s family lives. Mr. Dalton and other wealthy real estate men are robbing the poor, black tenants on the South Side. What they do is refuse to rent apartments in other neighborhoods to black tenants. By doing this, they create an fake housing shortage on the South Side, and that causes high rents. Mr. Dalton likes to think of himself as a generous man just because he gives money to black schools and offers jobs to poor, timid black boys like Bigger. However, his generosity is only a way for him to get rid of the guilty conscience he has for cheating the poor black residents of Chicago. Mary Dalton, the daughter of Bigger’s Mr. Dalton, angers Bigger when she ignores the rules of society when it comes to relationships between white women and black men. On his first day on the job, Bigger drives Mary out to meet her boyfriend, Jan. One thing leads to another, and all three of them get drunk. Mary is too drunk to make it to her bedroom on her own, so Bigger helps her up the stairs. Just as he places Mary on her bed, Mary’s blind mother, Mrs. Dalton, enters the bedroom. Bigger is scared that Mary will give away that he is in the room, so he covers her face with a pillow and accidentally smothers her to death. Unaware that Mary is dead, Mrs. Dalton prays and then leaves the room. Bigger tries to cover his crime by burning Mary’s body in the Daltons’ furnace. Then attempts to frame Jan for Mary’s disappearance. A comment by Bigger’s girlfriend, Bessie, gives him the idea to try to collect ransom money from the Daltons. He writes a ransom letter and signs it Red, then talks Bessie into taking part in the whole plan. But, when Mary’s bones are found in the furnace, Bigger and Bessie run away to an empty building. Bigger is scared that he is going to get caught because of Bessie, so he rapes her and then he beats her to death with a brick. Everyone is after Bigger to try to catch him and bring him to jail. He escapes the huge manhunt as long as he can, but he is eventually captured after a huge shoot-out. The press and the public decide his guilt and his punishment before his trial even begins. All the people just assume that Bigger raped Mary before killing her and burned her body to hide the evidence. The white authorities and mob use Bigger as an excuse to terrorize the entire South Side neighborhood. Jan is heartbroken over Mary’s death, but he finally understands that he is partly guilty too. He realizes that he was wrong to expect Bigger to act differently to him than to any other white man. Jan also realizes that he violated all of the rules that apply to race relations. And the fact that he did that, angered and shamed Bigger. Jan gets his friend, Boris A. Max, to defend Bigger for free. He tries to save Bigger from the death penalty by arguing that what Bigger did was an affect of the environment he was in. Max warns the public that there will be more men like Bigger if America does not put an end to the huge cycle of hate and punishment. But, even after the trial, Bigger is sentenced to death.


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