Native Son Novel Overview

Kalil Chikha
kchikha@hotmail.com

2023 / 9 / 13

Richard Wright published his novel (Native Son) in 1940, that is, before blacks got what is called civil rights. At that time, segregation still existed both in public and non-public in American society. Moreover, the United States was engaged in a fierce war against Nazi Germany with its allies. The novel explores the racial conflict that blacks were suffering from. This issue has worried all black writers in America since. Although the novel was widely criticized by black writers, especially James Baldwin and Franz Fanon, as a novel that embodies stereotypes against blacks and exposes racist practices in America. In general, it caused a stir in the world of literature, as it sold 250,000 copies within three weeks after the first published copy. The novel exceeds 500 pages, starting with a black family living in south Chicago in a sleazy apartment, in which all kinds of insects and rats are in the apartment. That is to indicate the poverty the blacks lived in. The writer opens the novel with a rat, emerging from the toilet and running around the apartment. The eldest son kills it and throws it outside. The family consists of a mother, her daughter, the protagonist (Bigger Thomas) and a younger brother. This young man has friends, who form a gang that robs black shops, but they once planned to rob a white man s shop, and out of fear, the plan failed. Then, Bigger works as a taxi driver for a white family. Mr. Dalton is the same owner of the apartment in which the young man lives with his family. We learn later in the novel that Mr. Dalton donates some of his money to some black charity. In general, the family was kind to Bigger and treated him well. Mary, their daughter, studies at university and has a communist friend, and calls her father a capitalist, as her friend called her dad. Once, she went out with her boyfriend and bigger was the driver. Everyone gets drunk, and coincidences happen here. Bigger carries Mary to her bedroom because she is drunk, and her blind mother enters the room to check on her daughter, but Bigger was afraid of being inside the room, so he puts a pillow over her head, so she suffocates and dies. Her mother leaves the room without knowing what happened. The young man is confused and decides to burn the body in the Family Furnace, which is located in the basement. To hide his crime, he accuses her communist friend (Jan) of kidnapping and demands a ransom in a letter he slips under the door. The police intervene and uncover the crime. Bigger escapes and hides in an isolated building with his black girlfriend. When she falls a---sleep---, he kills her with a rock and throws her corpse into the street. The police arrested him. The first person to visit him was Jan, the young communist, with a lawyer to defend him, as he told him that his crime was an inevitable result of racism practiced by whites against blacks. Bigger discovers that not all whites are evil, and that humans are motivated by interests. The court sentences him to death for the two crimes he committed.
Richard Wright drew his novel from a true story that occurred in his time, when a young man committed several murders and robberies in 1939 and was sentenced to death. His name was Robert Nixon.
The Author Richard Wright:
The writer was born in 1908 and died in 1960 in Mississippi, the most segregated state of his time. His father worked on a farm, and his mother was a school teacher. His father left the house, leaving the family to an unknown fate. His mother went to her family, taking the children with her. Once, Richard started a fire in his grandfather s house, and his mother beat him until he lost consciousness. When he grew up, he became involved in the American Communist Party and was very active in it, but when the party supported Stalin s position in its alliance with the United States against Hitler, the party supported Stalin s position. Richard was one of the opponents of this alliance, so the party accused him of belonging to the Trotsky group and of deviation from the party path. Then, they expelled him from the party. He wrote for many newspapers and magazines and served as editor-in-chief several times. He published his first story when he was 15 years old, and in 1936 he published his novel (The Big Boy), followed by several other novels.
In general, all black writers have addressed the same issue of racism that they encounter during their lives in the fields of literature. Even when they won civil rights in the 1960s, the issue of race continued to be a major concern in their narratives and stories.



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