Native Son
By: Richard Wright

"Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could've been for assault, or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930's, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection of the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America."

The novel Native Son is divided into 8 seperate books.
Richard Wright
Richard Wright

1.) Introduction by Arnold Rampersad
2.) Book One: Fear
3.) Book Two: Flight
4.) Book Three: Fate
5.) How "Bigger was born"
6.) Chronology of Richard Wright's Life
7.) Note on the Texts
8.) Other Notes

Bigger Thomas is a confused young black man. He doesn't know where he's going or where he is going to end up, but he gets involved in a bad group of events that will change his life drastically. Bigger and his family live in a one bedroom apartment in the slums of Chicago. His mother is barely keeping up with the money issues, and she is pushing him to get a job so he can help out. His brother, Buddy, seems like Biggers only ally because he is the one that leaves him alone, and even though it's not what he needs, it's what he desires. His sister Vera gets on his nerves all the time and she nags him more than his mother does. By doing this, she places herself in a position for Bigger to yell at her almost all the time. Bigger also has three good friends that he spends most of his time with. Jack, G.H., and Gus. The four of them plan a robbery which eventually falls through due to a fight that erupts between Bigger and Gus. Thanks to the relief in Chicago, Bigger is offered a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family, the Dalton's. The Dalton's are well known for their exceptional kindness towards Blacks and their millions donated to Black charities. His first job is to take Mary Dalton, their daughter, to school. She tells Bigger to take her and her communist boyfriend, Jan, around his side of town. They eat at a restaurant and the two of them get
Native Son--By: Richard Wright
Native Son--By: Richard Wright
completely smashed. Bigger drops off Jan, and proceeds to take Mary home. When they return, she is so drunk that she can barely move. So, Bigger takes her to her room and in a fleet of panic, suffocates her when blind Mrs. Dalton walks in. Bigger is beside himself with fear, and he panics so much that he eventually decapitates her, and throws her into the furnace. When he returns the next day, the Dalton's have no idea where Mary is, and at first they think nothing of it. But when Bigger starts to unravel his brilliant, well thought out lie, they start to panic. After about a day of investigation, the Dalton's (with the help of Bigger's lies) come to the conclusion that Jan and the communists are behind all of this. When the press gets a hold of the newly developing story, they swarm the Dalton residense like wasps. While they are questioning Bigger, Peggy, the maid, tells Bigger to empty out the furnace ashes on account of it getting chilly in the house. Bigger is scared out of his mind. What if her head rolls out of the ashes? What if she never completely burned? He skims around and eventually gets too scared to empty out all the ashes. He adds more coal and the basement full of press and investigators quickly fills with thick, black smoke. The people in the basement proceed to clean out all of the ashes in order to save their aching lungs. After things die down, one of the reporters sees something in the bed of ashes. Could that really be a human bone? Is that an earring? Yes. Mary Dalton has been discovered in the ashes of the furnace. As the people are in awe, Bigger quickly leaves the scene out of fright and panic. He grabs his girlfriend, Bessie, whom he plotted another scheme with and they quickly find somewhere they can both hide. After laying down some blankets and making some sort of bed, Bigger longs for a feeling of warmth. He inches closer to Bessie and caresses her and kisses her. Bessie, feeling scared, nudges him away. He pays no attention to this and continues on for his desire of warmth. Eventually, he ends up raping her. Feeling scared once again, he finds a brick laying on the abandoned apartment floor and murders Bessie and he throws her and the blood stained quilts down an empy air shaft. After a long time of running, he finally gets caught. The story ends powerfully and emotionally. To find out, you must read for yourself. =)

Main Characters:
Bigger Thomas - Main Focus. Associated with the Dalton's.
Mother Thomas - Bigger's mother. Widow.
Chicago skyline in 1930
Chicago skyline in 1930

Buddy Thomas - Bigger's little brother.
Vera Thomas - Bigger's little sister.
Bessie - Bigger's girlfriend. Murdered by Bigger.
Jack - Bigger's best friend. Involved with violence.
G.H. - Another of Bigger's friends
Gus - Bigger's least favorite friend. Fights violently with Bigger.
Mr. Henry Dalton - Wealthy white man. Employs Bigger and owns his apartment.
Mrs. Dalton - Wife of Henry. Blind. Very kindhearted
Mary Dalton - Daughter. Heiress. Communist. Killed by Bigger
Jan Erlone - Mary's boyfriend. Communist. Blamed first for Mary's disappearence.

Why read Native Son?
Native son is a fantastic book with a deep storyline. At first when I began to read this book, I wasnt really sure if it was going anywhere. I soon found out that I was very wrong. The plot picked up in a short amount of time and I was amazed at the journey this book took me on. I really enjoy books that take me away from home, and Native Son definatly did that for me. Out of five stars, I would give this book credit with all five. It's not like other books out there and I'm really glad that I read it. My guess as to why this book is on the Outstanding books for the college bound list is probably because of its deep roots in american history. In this time period, life for Blacks was so incredibly rough and no one would give them a chance. Things are better now i should think, and its more of an equal opporatunity society. Another reason it may be on the list is because of its mature dialouge and content. It went into great detail about the violence and the sexual acts. Partially disturbing to me because in a book, I dont really care to read details about a decapitation. But, thats just me. Overall, the book was fantastic and I really enjoyed reading it.

If any of you are interested in a discussion, I have posted one to satisfy your hunger.
So, go check it out! I'm interested in hearing your responses! :D

Works Cited:

Wright, Richard. Native Son. Restored edition © copyright 1993 by Ellen Wright.

Richard Wright Photo

Cover Photo

Chicage 1930 skyline Photo