Essay/Term paper: Wright's "native son": capitalist or communism?
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Wright's "Native Son": Capitalist or Communism?
Was Richard Wright's Native Son a story about his views towards
Capitalism and Communism ? Did Richard Wright want to show the good and bad
points towards Capitalism and Communism ? Or was this novel just about how a
young man went through life and how society made him. Richard Wright's Native
Son shows that he used the Dalton's, Thomas's, and Jan Erlone to represent
Capitalism and Communism .
After reading Richard Wright's Native Son, many believe the author
purposely placed the Thomas family in a small, run-down home . The book shows
this right from the start . Bigger and his family had to sleep in the same room,
and big rats were running around the house . This shows the Thomas family
represented the lower class, a trademark of Capitalism . I could not even
imagine living there, especially with that huge rat .The house must have been
very dirty and disgusting by today's standards . The author wanted to show how
some families live under these severe conditions. He made us see vividly how
they lived with this quote . "A huge black rat squealed and leaped at Bigger's
trouser-leg and snagged it in his teeth, hanging on." This showed how broke they
were by showing that there were giant rats living with them and how it had no
fear of them .
Richard Wright did not just not just want to show the con sides to
Capitalism, he also wanted to prove the Capitalism has its good sides to it also
. For instance, Richard Wright purposely placed the Daltons in a spectacular
house and made them very rich and famous . Another trademark of Capitalism, the
upper class. The author showed how some of the Capitalist folks lived . The
upper class is very wealthy and basically gets what they want . Mr. and Mrs.
Dalton had it made. They had chauffeurs, a huge house, and cars . They had too
much money . They were giving away things to the needy, though they were giving
away useless things to the needy like Ping-Pong tables. Richard Wright wanted
to show that the upper class were afraid of the blacks . Not afraid of their
individual physical strength, but afraid if they gained too much power. The
upper class had the power and they did not want anything or anyone to take some
of it away . The author also wanted to prove another point here also . How the
rich take advantage of the poor . Mr. Dalton was in the real estate business .
He sold overpriced apartments in a bad area to the poor . Wright was trying to
show that the rich were getting richer, by rent the blacks paid, and the poor
were getting poorer, by paying the rent .
On the Communist side, Richard Wright used Jan Erlone to show some
aspects about Communism . A good example of this is when Jan first meets him and
tries to make him feel like he was equal to him . The trademark of Communism,
equality . Like in this quote "Jan smiled broadly, then extended his an open
palm toward him." He wanted to show that Communist try to make everyone equal .
Jan did not want there to be a black-white relationship. He wanted Bigger to
feel like he was Jan's equal .
Mr. Wright was not trying to condone nor condemn Capitalist or Communist
. He was just showing what he saw through his eyes of the two types of
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When it appeared in 1940, Native Son was without precedent in American literature. Previous African American writing, including Richard Wright’s Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), had treated blacks as passive and innocent victims of racism suffering their lot in dignified silence. As Wright said of his own earlier work, the reading audience could escape into the self-indulgence of pity on reading such work rather than truly face the hard facts of racism. In Bigger Thomas, Wright created a character who was neither a passive sufferer nor an innocent victim. Instead, Wright reminded Americans of the full cost of bigotry in social and human terms by dramatizing the deep anger, hate, and fear that many blacks felt.
Years after Native Son’s appearance, James Baldwin would assert that every black person carries some degree of Bigger Thomas within him- or herself. Perhaps so, and it is to Wright’s credit that he was the first American writer to bring those feelings into the open. Readers are reminded that Bigger is a “native son,” and his experience is quintessentially a part of the American experience. On the psychological, the sociological, and the philosophical levels, Wright explores the most disturbing implications of what it means to be African American.
The basic tone of Wright’s psychological treatment of Bigger is set in the opening scene in which Bigger and Buddy battle the rat. Here is a symbolic paradigm for the entire novel in which Bigger, like the rat, will be hunted and destroyed. The rat, it must be understood, operates entirely at the instinctual level, and its viciousness is in response to fear. Recalling that “Fear” is the title of the first section of the novel, as “Flight” is of the second, suggests that Bigger, too, is a creature motivated by fear and acting instinctively. This is demonstrably true of his killing Mary Dalton while avoiding detection, and it shows up even earlier in the fight with Gus. Fearful of outside forces, particularly white people, Bigger is equally fearful of the repressed anger within himself, as his several comments referring to his concern that he is destined to commit some terrible act indicate. Thus, in at least the first two sections of the novel, Bigger, before and after the murder, is operating at an instinctual level, and it is against this background that his development takes place.
Bigger’s psychological state is an obvious result of the sociological conditions prevailing in the novel. As Bigger dramatizes the anger and pain of his race, the Daltons effectively represent the ruling white power structure. It is to Wright’s credit that he does not give way to the temptation to create villains, but makes these whites generous, liberal, and humanitarian. It is ironic that even while giving a “chance” to Bigger and helping in ghetto programs, the Daltons are reaping the proceeds of ghetto housing. Appropriately, Wright uses the metaphor of blindness to characterize the attitude of the Daltons here, as he will later, to account for Max’s failure to comprehend Bigger. Bigger, too, is described as blind, because, in this world of Native Son, there is no real possibility of people seeing one another in clear human perspective. All the characters respond to one another as symbols rather than as people.
Wright’s use of the polarities of black and white symbolism is not limited to the literal and racial levels of the novel. The entire world of Native Son, as the story unfolds, is increasingly polarized into a symbolic black-white dichotomy. Especially during part 2, the snow that buries the city under a cold and hostile blanket of white becomes a more complicated manifestation of the white symbolism than that limited to the sociological level. At the same time, not only does Bigger escape into the black ghetto in search of safety and security, he also seeks out the black interiors of abandoned buildings to hide from both the freezing snow and the death-dealing white mob. Finally, Bigger’s flight ends when he is spread out against the white snow as though he were being crucified.
It is not probable that Wright had heard of European existentialism when he wrote Native Son, so it is all the more remarkable that this novel should so clearly demonstrate concepts that anticipate Wright’s embracing of existentialist philosophy when he went to Europe in the late 1940’s. Though Bigger very obviously commits the first murder without premeditation, he quickly comes to the realization that somehow the act is the sum of his entire life. Rather than repudiating responsibility for his crime, or seeing himself as a victim of circumstances, either of which would be understandable, Bigger consciously and deliberately affirms the killing as the most creative act of his life. Whereas before he was in the position of constantly reacting—like the rat—he now sees himself as having responsibility for his own fate. Further, the world that before had seemed frighteningly ambiguous is now clearly revealed to him. For the first time in his life, Bigger has a positive sense of his own identity and a concrete knowledge of how he relates to the world around him. Ironically, Max’s case that Bigger is a victim of society threatens to deprive Bigger of the identity he has purchased at such terrible cost to himself, but, facing death at the end of the novel, he reaffirms his belief that he killed for something, and he faces death with the courage born of his one creative moment.
Wright’s novel is not without faults, particularly the tedious final section in which Max argues a doctrinaire Marxist interpretation of Bigger’s crime. Apparently, however, Wright himself could not fully accept this view, since Bigger’s reaffirmation of responsibility contradicts Max’s deterministic justification. In the final analysis, Bigger’s insistence upon responsibility for his act demonstrates the human potential for freedom of act and will and asserts human possibility in contrast to the Marxist vision of people as animals trapped in a world they cannot control.