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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Analysis of the theme of Native son by Richard Wright

Class Oppression

Violence

Fear

Communism vs Capitalism

Hatred begets Hatred

                                                                 Analysis of the theme of Native son by Richard Wright
Racial Oppression

Wright’s exploration of Bigger’s psychological corruption gives us a new perspective on the oppressive effect racism had on the black population in 1930s America. Bigger’s psychological damage results from the constant barrage of racist propaganda and racial oppression he faces while growing up. The movies he sees depict whites as wealthy sophisticates and blacks as jungle savages. He and his family live in cramped and squalid conditions, enduring socially enforced poverty and having little opportunity for education. Bigger’s resulting attitude toward whites is a volatile combination of powerful anger and powerful fear. He conceives of “whiteness” as an overpowering and hostile force that is set against him in life. Just as whites fail to conceive of Bigger as an individual, he does not really distinguish between individual whites—to him, they are all the same, frightening and untrustworthy. As. result of his hatred and fear, Bigger’s accidental killing of Mary Dalton does not fill him with guilt. Instead, he feels an odd jubilation because, for the first time, he has asserted his own individuality against the white forces that have conspired to destroy it.
Throughout the novel, Wright illustrates the ways in which white racism forces blacks into a pressured—and therefore dangerous —state of mind. Blacks are beset with the hardship of economic oppression and forced to act subserviently before their oppressors, while the media consistently portrays them as animalistic brutes. Given such conditions, as Max argues, it becomes inevitable that blacks such as Bigger will react with violence and hatred. However, Wright emphasizes the vicious double-edged effect of racism: though Bigger’s violence stems from racial hatred, it only increases the racism in American society, as it confirms racist whites’ basic fears about blacks. In Wright’s portrayal, whites effectively transform blacks into their own negative stereotypes of “blackness.” Only when Bigger meets Max and begins to perceive whites as individuals does Wright offer any hope for a means of breaking this circle of racism. Only when sympathetic understanding exists between blacks and whites will they be able to perceive each other as individuals, not merely as stereotypes.




Racial Injusice

An important idea that emerges from Wright’s treatment of racism is the terrible inequity of the American criminal justice system of Wright’s time. Drawing inspiration from actual court cases of the 1930 s—especially the 1938 – 39 case of Robert Nixon, a young black man charged with murdering a white woman during a robbery—Wright portrays the American judiciary as an ineffectual pawn caught between the lurid interests of the media and the driving ambition of politicians. The outcome of Bigger’s case is decided before it ever goes to court: in the vicious cycle of racism, a black man who kills a white woman is guilty regardless of the factual circumstances of the killing. It is important, of course, that Bigger is indeed guilty of Mary’s murder, as well as Bessie’s. Nonetheless, the justice system still fails him, as he receives neither a fair trial nor an opportunity to defend himself. With the newspapers presenting him as a murderous animal and Buckley using the case to further his own political career, anything said in Bigger’s defense falls on deaf ears. Even Max’s impassioned defense is largely a wasted effort. The motto of the American justice system is “equal justice under law,” but Wright depicts a judiciary so undermined by racial prejudice and corruption that the concept of equality holds little meaning.



Class Oppression

Violence

Fear

Communism vs Capitalism

Hatred begets Hatred

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