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Native Son

Native Son

Author(s): Richard Wright

Location(s): Chicago

Genre(s): Fiction

Era(s): 1930s

Set in Chicago, Illinois in the 1930s, Native Son is not a sugar-coated tale. It is a tale of a black man trapped by rules that pin him down, pen him in, force him to live in a certain (rat-infested) part of the city, make him only have certain kinds of (subservient) jobs, instill fear in him in every interaction in the wold of whites, and kill his ambitions (to be a pilot) because in the world he lives in, he will never realize those dreams.

Native Son is the story of crime and criminals, and specifically, the crimes of Bigger Thomas, who, because he is a black man, is deemed a criminal before he commits his first crime. In Native Son, Bigger Thomas is not a hero. He is not likable. He commits atrocious acts, knowingly, and without remorse. But what’s fascinating about Native Son is the psychology of those crimes. The genius in Native Son is Wright’s ability to get us inside the mind and emotions of a poor black man who turns to crime because it is the only way he can truly be liberated — it is the only way he has control over his own life. Bigger is not admirable. The reader is not on his side. But he represents something bigger (ha!): what happens to humans when they are not free.

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