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Showing posts with label native son. Show all posts
Showing posts with label native son. Show all posts

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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analysis on the use of symbols in Native son

Symbols
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Mrs. Dalton’s Blindness

Mrs. Dalton’s blindness plays a crucial role in the circumstances of Bigger’s murder of Mary, as it gives Bigger the escape route of smothering Mary to keep her from revealing his presence in her bedroom. On a symbolic level, this set of circumstances serves as a metaphor for the vicious circle of racism in American society: Mrs. Dalton’s inability to see Bigger causes him to turn to violence, just as the inability of whites to see blacks as individuals causes blacks to live their lives in fear and hatred. Mrs. Dalton’s blindness represents the inability of white Americans as a whole to see black Americans as anything other than the embodiment of their media-enforced -stereotypes. Wright echoes Mrs. Dalton’s literal blindness throughout the novel in his descriptions of other characters who are figuratively blind for one reason or another. Indeed, Bigger later realizes that, in a sense, even he has been blind, unable to see whites as individuals rather than a single oppressive mass.

The Cross

The Christian cross traditionally symbolizes compassion and sacrifice for a greater good, and indeed Reverend Hammond intends as much when he gives Bigger a cross while he is in jail. Bigger even begins to think of himself as Christlike, imagining that he is sacrificing himself in order to wash away the shame of being black, just as Christ died to wash away the world’s sins. Later, however, after Bigger sees the image of a burning cross, he can only associate crosses with the hatred and racism that have crippled him throughout his life. As such, the cross in Native Son comes to symbolize the opposite of what it usually signifies in a Christian context.


Snow

A light snow begins falling at the start of Book Two, and this snow eventually turns into a blizzard that aids in Bigger’s capture. Throughout the novel, Bigger thinks of whites not as individuals, but as a looming white mountain or a great natural force pressing down upon him. The blizzard is raging as Bigger jumps from his window to escape after Mary’s bones are found in the furnace. When he falls to the ground, the snow fills his mouth, ears, and eyes—all his senses are overwhelmed with a literal whiteness, representing the metaphorical “whiteness” he feels has been controlling him his whole life. Bigger tries to flee, but the snow has sealed off all avenues of escape, allowing the white police to surround and capture him.
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Roles and analysis of all the characters of the native son


Bigger : Twenty years old, he is the eldest of the three children of Mrs Thomas who is a sinle parent.
He dropped out of school at the eighth grade, he had been at the reformatory school once for stealing auto tyres. now he keep company of other jobless friends, committing petty crimes
Bigger is limited by the fact that he has only
completed the eighth grade, and by the racist real estate practices that force him to live in poverty. Furthermore, he is subjected to endless bombardment from a popular culture that portrays whites as sophisticated and blacks as either subservient or savage. Indeed, racism has severely curtailed Bigger’s prospects in life and even his very conception of himself. He is ashamed of his family’s poverty and afraid of the whites who control his life—feelings he works hard to keep hidden, even from himself. When these feelings overwhelm him, he reacts with violence. Bigger commits crimes with his friends —though only against other blacks, as the group is too frightened to rob a white man—but his own violence is often directed at these friends as well. Bigger feels little guilt after he accidentally kills Mary. In fact, he feels for the first time as though his life actually has meaning. Mary’s murder makes him believe that he has the power to assert himself against whites. Wright goes out of his way to emphasize that Bigger is not a conventional hero, as his brutality and capacity for violence are extremely disturbing, especially in graphic scenes such as the one in which he decapitates Mary’s corpse in order to stuff it into the furnace. Wright does not present Bigger as a hero to admire, but as a frightening and upsetting figure created by racism. Indeed, Wright’s point is that Bigger becomes a brutal killer precisely because the dominant white culture fears that he will become a brutal killer. By confirming whites’ fears, Bigger contributes to the cycle of racism in America. Only after he meets Max and learns to talk through his problems does Bigger begin to redeem himself, recognizing whites as individuals for the first time and realizing the extent to which he has been stunted by racism. Bigger’s progress is cut short, however, by his execution.






Mary : Mary is the beautiful daughter of the chicago capitalist millionaire, Mr Henry Dalton she is the heiress to the big wealth of the dalton because she is the only child of the family. she is considered a major character in the novel not because of the number of her role or frequency of her appearance in the events making up story, but the centrality of her appearance. consciously identifies herself as a progressive: she defies her parents by dating a communist, cares about social issues, and is politically and personally interested in improving the lives of blacks in America. Though Mary’s intentions are essentially good, however, she is too young and immature either to commit fully to her chosen causes or to attain a sophisticated understanding of those people she seeks to help. Mary attempts to treat Bigger as a human being, but gives no thought to the fact that Bigger might be surprised and confused by such unprecedented treatment from the wealthy white daughter of his employer. Mary simply assumes that Bigger will embrace her friendship, as she supports the political cause that she believes he represents. She does not even think to wonder about any of his personal qualities, thoughts, or feelings, butmerely seeks to befriend him automatically, because he is black. For a tragically brief moment, Mary seems to recognize Bigger’s discomfort, a sign that perhaps one day she could be capable of greater understanding. Ultimately, however, Mary never gets the chance to perceive Bigger as an individual. Though Mary has the best of intentions, she treats Bigger with a thoughtless racism that is just as destructive as the more overt hypocrisy of her parents. Interacting with the Daltons, Bigger at least knows where he stands. Mary’s behavior, however, is disorienting and upsetting to him. Ultimately, Mary’s thoughtlessness actually ends up placing Bigger in serious danger, while the only risk she herself runs is mild punishment or disapproval from her parents for her disobedience. She does not stop to think that Bigger could easily lose his job—or worse —if he upsets her parents. Mary unthinkingly puts Bigger in the position of being alone with her in her bedroom, and her inability to understand him and the terror he feels at the prospect of being discovered in her room proves fatal.

Mr. and Mrs. Dalton - A white millionaire couple living in Chicago. Mrs. Dalton is blind; Mr. Dalton has earned a fortune in real estate. Although he profits from charging high rents to poor black tenants—including Bigger’s family—on Chicago’s South Side, he nonetheless claims to be a generous philanthropist and supporter of black Americans.


Jan Erlone - A member of the Communist Party and Mary Dalton’s boyfriend—a relationship that upsets Mary’s parents. Jan, like Mary, wants to treat Bigger as an equal, but such untraditional behavior only frightens and angers Bigger. Jan later recognizes his mistake in trying to treat Bigger this way and becomes sympathetic toward his plight. Jan becomes especially aware of the social divisions that prevent Bigger from relating normally with white society.


Boris A. Max - A Jewish lawyer who works for the Labor Defenders, an organization affiliated with the Communist Party. Max argues, based on a sociological analysis of American society, that institutionalized racism and prejudice—not inherent ethnic qualities create conditions for violence in urban ghettos.


Bessie Mears - Bigger’s girlfriend. Their relationship remains quite distant and is largely based upon mutual convenience rather than romantic love. Mrs. Thomas - Bigger’s devoutly religious mother. Mrs. Thomas has accepted her precarious, impoverished position in life and warns Bigger at the beginning of the novel that he will meet a bad end if he fails to change his ways.

Buddy Thomas - Bigger’s younger brother. Buddy, unlike his brother, does not rebel against his low position on the social ladder. In fact, he envies Bigger’s job as a chauffeur for a rich white family. As the novel progresses, however, Buddy begins to take on a more antagonistic attitude toward racial prejudice.


Vera Thomas - Bigger’s younger sister. Vera, like Bigger, lives her life in constant fear.



G. H., Gus, and Jack - Bigger’s friends, who often plan and execute robberies together. G. H., Gus, and Jack hatch a tentative plan to rob a white shopkeeper, Mr. Blum, but they are afraid of the consequences if they should be caught robbing white man. At the beginning of the novel, Bigger taunts his friends about their fear, even though he is just as terrified himself.


Mr. Blum - A white man who owns a delicatessen on the South Side of Chicago. Mr. Blum represents an inviting robbery target for Bigger and his friends, but their fear of the consequences of robbing a white man initially prevents them from following through on their plan.

Britten - A racist, anticommunist private investigator who helps Mr. Dalton investigate Mary’s disappearance. Buckley - The incumbent State’s Attorney who is running for reelection. Buckley is viciously racist and anticommunist


Peggy - An Irish immigrant who has worked as the Daltons’ cook for years. Peggy considers the Daltons to be marvelous benefactors to black Americans. Though she is actively kind to Bigger, she is also extremely patronizing. Doc - The black owner of a pool hall on the South Side of Chicago that serves as a hangout for Bigger and his friends. Reverend Hammond - The pastor of Mrs. Thomas’s church who urges Bigger to turn toward religion in times of trouble.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Role of Mary Dalton in native son

Mary : Mary is the beautiful daughter of the chicago capitalist millionaire, Mr Henry Dalton she is the heiress to the big wealth of the dalton because she is the only child of the family. she is considered a major character in the novel not because of the number of her role or frequency of her appearance in the events making up story, but the centrality of her appearance .

Mary self-consciously identifies herself as a progressive: she defies her parents by dating a communist, cares about social issues, and is politically and personally interested in improving the lives of blacks in America. Though Mary’s intentions are essentially good, however, she is too young and immature either to commit fully to her chosen causes or to attain a sophisticated understanding of those people she seeks to help. Mary attempts to treat Bigger as a human being, but gives no thought to the fact that Bigger might be surprised and confused by such unprecedented treatment from the wealthy white daughter of his employer. Mary simply assumes that Bigger will embrace her friendship, as she supports the political cause that she believes he represents. She does not even think to wonder about any of his personal qualities, thoughts, or feelings, butmerely seeks to befriend him automatically, because he is black. For a tragically brief moment, Mary seems to recognize Bigger’s discomfort, a sign that perhaps one day she could be capable of greater understanding. Ultimately, however, Mary never gets the chance to perceive Bigger as an individual. Though Mary has the best of intentions, she treats Bigger with a thoughtless racism that is just as destructive as the more overt hypocrisy of her parents. Interacting with the Daltons, Bigger at least knows where he stands. Mary’s behavior, however, is disorienting and upsetting to him. Ultimately, Mary’s thoughtlessness actually ends up placing Bigger in serious danger, while the only risk she herself runs is mild punishment or disapproval from her parents for her disobedience. She does not stop to think that Bigger could easily lose his job—or worse —if he upsets her parents. Mary unthinkingly puts Bigger in the position of being alone with her in her bedroom, and her inability to understand him and the terror he feels at the prospect of being discovered in her room proves fatal.
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Roles and analysis of bigger thomas in the native son

Bigger : Twenty years old, he is the eldest of the three children of Mrs Thomas who is a sinle parent.
He dropped out of school at the eighth grade, he had been at the reformatory school once for stealing auto tyres. now he keep company of other jobless friends, committing petty crimes
Bigger is limited by the fact that he has only
completed the eighth grade, and by the racist real estate practices that force him to live in poverty. Furthermore, he is subjected to endless bombardment from a popular culture that portrays whites as sophisticated and blacks as either subservient or savage. Indeed, racism has severely curtailed Bigger’s prospects in life and even his very conception of himself. He is ashamed of his family’s poverty and afraid of the whites who control his life—feelings he works hard to keep hidden, even from himself. When these feelings overwhelm him, he reacts with violence. Bigger commits crimes with his friends —though only against other blacks, as the group is too frightened to rob a white man—but his own violence is often directed at these friends as well. Bigger feels little guilt after he accidentally kills Mary. In fact, he feels for the first time as though his life actually has meaning. Mary’s murder makes him believe that he has the power to assert himself against whites. Wright goes out of his way to emphasize that Bigger is not a conventional hero, as his brutality and capacity for violence are extremely disturbing, especially in graphic scenes such as the one in which he decapitates Mary’s corpse in order to stuff it into the furnace. Wright does not present Bigger as a hero to admire, but as a frightening and upsetting figure created by racism. Indeed, Wright’s point is that Bigger becomes a brutal killer precisely because the dominant white culture fears that he will become a brutal killer. By confirming whites’ fears, Bigger contributes to the cycle of racism in America. Only after he meets Max and learns to talk through his problems does Bigger begin to redeem himself, recognizing whites as individuals for the first time and realizing the extent to which he has been stunted by racism. Bigger’s progress is cut short, however, by his execution.



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Summary of the native son

The plot of the native son

The story begins in the one-room rat-infested apartment of the protagonist's family the 'Thomases' the protagonist, is sheduled to attend a job interview which is to serve as the lifeline for the poor thomas family.

But Bigger instead chooses to meet up with his friends to plan the robbery of a white man’s store.

Anger, fear, and frustration define Bigger’s daily existence, as he is forced to hide behind a facade of toughness or risk succumbing to despair. While Bigger and his gang have robbed many black-owned businesses, they have never attempted to rob a white man. Bigger sees whites not as individuals, but as a
natural, oppressive force a great looming “whiteness” pressing down upon him. Bigger’s fear of confronting this force. overwhelms him, but rather than admit his fear, he violently. attacks a member of his gang to sabotage the robbery. Left with no other options, Bigger takes a job as a chauffeur for the Daltons.
Coincidentally, Mr. Dalton is also Bigger’s landlord, as he owns a controlling share of the company that manages the apartment building where Bigger’s family lives. Mr. Dalton and other wealthy real estate barons are effectively robbing the poor, black tenants on Chicago’s South Side—they refuse to allow blacks to rent apartments in predominantly white neighborhoods, thus leading to overpopulation and artificially high rents in the predominantly black South Side. Mr. Dalton sees himself as a benevolent philanthropist, however, as he donates money to black schools and offers jobs to “poor, timid black boys” like Bigger. However, Mr. Dalton practices this. philanthropy mainly to alleviate his guilty conscience for exploiting poor
blacks. Mary, Mr. Dalton’s daughter, frightens and angers Bigger by ignoring the social taboos that govern the relations between white women and black men. On his first day of work, Bigger drives Mary to meet her communist boyfriend, Jan. Eager to
prove their progressive ideals and racial tolerance, Mary and Jan force Bigger to take them to a restaurant in the South Side. Despite Bigger’s embarrassment, they order drinks, and as the evening passes, all three of them get drunk. Bigger then drives
around the city while Mary and Jan make out in the back seat. Afterward, Mary is too drunk to make it to her bedroom on her own, so Bigger helps her up the stairs. Drunk and aroused by
his unprecedented proximity to a young white woman, Bigger begins to kiss Mary.
Just as Bigger places Mary on her bed, Mary’s blind mother, Mrs. Dalton, enters the bedroom. Though Mrs. Dalton cannot see him, her ghostlike presence terrifies him. Bigger worries that Mary, in her drunken condition, will reveal his presence. He covers her face with a pillow and accidentally smothers her to death. Unaware that Mary has been killed, Mrs. Dalton prays over her daughter and returns to bed. Bigger tries to conceal his crime by burning Mary’s body in the Daltons’ furnace. He decides to try to use the Daltons’ prejudice against communists to frame Jan for Mary’s disappearance. Bigger believes that the Daltons will assume Jan is dangerous and that he may have kidnapped their daughter for political purposes. Additionally, Bigger takes advantage of the Daltons’ racial prejudices to avoid suspicion, continuing to play the role of a timid, ignorant black servant who would be unable to commit such an act. Mary’s murder gives Bigger a sense of power and identity he has never known. Bigger’s girlfriend, Bessie, makes an offhand comment that inspires him to try to collect ransom money from the Daltons. They know only that Mary has vanished, not that she is dead. Bigger writes a ransom letter, playing upon the Daltons’ hatred of communists by signing his name “Red.” He
then bullies Bessie to take part in the ransom scheme. However, Mary’s bones are found in the furnace, and Bigger flees with Bessie to an empty building. Bigger rapes Bessie and, frightened that she will give him away, bludgeons her to death with a brick after she falls asleep. Bigger eludes the massive manhunt for as long as he can, but
he is eventually captured after a dramatic shoot-out. The press and the public determine his guilt and his punishment before his
trial even begins. The furious populace assumes that he raped Mary before killing her and burned her body to hide the evidence
of the rape. Moreover, the white authorities and the white mob use Bigger’s crime as an excuse to terrorize the entire SouthSide .

Jan visits Bigger in jail. He says that he understands how he terrified, angered, and shamed Bigger through his violation of the social taboos that govern tense race relations. Jan enlists his friend, Boris A. Max, to defend Bigger free of charge. Jan and Max speak with Bigger as a human being, and Bigger begins to
see whites as individuals and himself as their equal.

Max tries to save Bigger from the death penalty, arguing that while his client is responsible for his crime, it is vital to recognize that he is a product of his environment. Part of the blame for Bigger’s crimes belongs to the fearful, hopeless existence that he has experienced in a racist society since birth. Max warns that there will be more men like Bigger if America does not put an end to the vicious cycle of hatred and vengeance. Despite Max’s arguments, Bigger is sentenced to death. Bigger is not a traditional hero by any means. However,Wright
forces us to enter into Bigger’s mind and to understand the devastating effects of the social conditions in which he was raised. Bigger was not born a violent criminal. He is a “native son”: a product of American culture and the violence and racism that suffuse it.

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