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2 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Native Son (Modern Classics)


Native Son (Modern Classics) Cover

ISBN13: 9780060837563
ISBN10: 006083756x
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have 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 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on 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.


Widely acclaimed as one of the finest books ever written on race and class divisions in America, this powerful novel reflects the forces of poverty, injustice, and hopelessness that continue to shape society.

About the Author

Richard Wright won international renown for his powerful and visceral depiction of the black experience. He stands today alongside such African-American luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, and two of his novels, Native Son and Black Boy, are required reading in high schools and colleges across the nation. He died in 1960.

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SnowRaven, September 17, 2014 (view all comments by SnowRaven)
This is a remarkable book that reflects one of the dark periods of American history. Bigger Thomas is a young black male who learns about the cruelty and inequalities caused by institutionalized racism, and he commits an act that jeopardizes his life. A must read for anyone who can appreciate great literature that is a sad tale based on reality.
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wendyvw1, January 28, 2011 (view all comments by wendyvw1)
This story was so rich, very dark and depressing though. It tells the story of a young black man living in the ghetto of Chicago in the '30's, facing racism, violence and social injustice. It forces you to consider where conditioning ends and free will begins for black America. I honestly enjoyed the story and was beautifully written.
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eByeBook, April 30, 2009 (view all comments by eByeBook)
Native Son: A Closer Look

Race and social power have been issues that have plagued history and still manage to cause controversy. From generations of being treated as inferior, the African American race has to live with a history of discrimination and prejudice. Richard Wright’s novel Native Son takes the risk of making readers aware of this history. In his novel, he ventures to discuss the power play of the white race and how such social power dominates as normalcy. Although the inevitability of the protagonist’s fate is predictable, Richard Wright allows the reader to ponder over the injustices of social classification in an influential and brazen story.
Richard Wright his life experiences to build the foundation of his book. In the early 1900s, around when Wright was born, America was fighting the issue of race and social classification even though the Civil War ended slavery. The influence of many childhood neighbors helped him form the protagonist, Bigger Thomas, for his novel. The one trait that these “Bigger Thomases” from his past had in common was the hate of their treatment and their desire to confront the white race about it. In the 1930s, Wright moved to Chicago where he became closely tied with the Communist movement. Along with the growing tension of racial dominance, the ideals of Communism were beginning to expand as well. Wright’s involvement with the Communist party and acceptance of their beliefs induced him to include it. Wright employs these influential aspects throughout his novel as the basis for his argument.
Native Son is a simple story that applies complex emotions to controversial issues. In the beginning, the reader sees Bigger Thomas as a young and troublemaking black man that shows little respect or remorse for anybody. When forced to get a job, he reluctantly concedes to work for a wealthy white family as their chauffer. In one night, he entangles himself in the crime of their daughter's murder. All the while, one continues to see the lack of sympathy he possesses when he commits this gruesome crime. The reader gets a glimpse of how Bigger Thomas plans to escape conviction and inevitable punishment by death. Meanwhile, the reader is constantly brought back to the internal thoughts and justifications that he has about his crime. He "accepted the moral guilt and responsibility for that murder because it had made him feel free for the first time in his life" (274). However, he would not be free for very long.
Once Bigger realizes that his plan to distract attention from himself by placing blame on others had failed, he tries to escape. With the forced help of “his girl” Bessie, they hide in an abandoned building. For fear that she might confess to the authorities, he decides that “he could not take her and he could not leave her” (235) so he concludes that he must kill her as well. This leaves Bigger to dig a little deeper behind his thoughts and perceptions of why he committed such horrible crimes. Though at the time he did not know the reasoning, he justifies the crimes to himself. He admits that he wanted “to merge himself with others and be a part of this world, to lose himself in it so he could find himself, to be allowed a chance to live like others, even though he was black” (240). Unfortunately for Bigger, this newfound world slowly begins spiraling downward when he is captured.
Now on trial for his crimes, Bigger has to face not only the family of the girl he murdered, but he has to face millions of the same race. “There was the fear of death before which he was naked and without defense” (274). The only support he has is from a communistic lawyer who is a friend of the man Bigger tried to accuse. Bigger’s “love of his own kind and the hate of the others made him feel equally guilty now” (282), and he believes that there is no hope. The battle for Bigger’s life begins to be a symbol of power and hope for others of his race. The reader also experiences the turmoil Bigger feels under his skin and hears the arguments of both sides, therefore allowing the reader to get all sides of the argument and ponder about it.
Richard Wright’s confrontational novel brings the controversial issues of racism and his views on them to the surface. The use of simple language to describe complex emotions is present to help the reader understand the effects of racism. The changing emotions of Bigger first make the reader despise him and feel no sympathy for such a man. Wright’s persuasive voice gives the reader a deeper look at the forces that drive Bigger’s actions. By the end of the novel, one strains to make a decision of what he or she believes is morally right, or maybe even root for Bigger. Starting as a criminal, Bigger transforms into a symbol. He is even asked, “Boy, did you ever think you’d be as important a man as you are right now?” (292). Wright utilizes Bigger to symbolize the inequality of justice that Bigger receives and how racism affects one’s mind.
Although the point of view is in third person, the perspective is mainly that of Bigger. This restricts the views of the characters; however, Wright purposely does this. His inability to hide his emotions and motives from the reader allow the reader to view all sides of his mind. Richard Wright purposely avoids a happy ending in order to shed light on the tragic discrimination and racism that began hundreds of years ago and still continues today.
Native Son by Richard Wright is a story about a black boy who commits a terrible crime against a white family. But Wright proves that it is more than just the murder that Bigger is accused of. Richard Wright successfully confronts the different perceptions of racism and allows the reader to draw his own conclusions.
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Product Details

Wright, Richard
Harper Perennial
by Richard A. Wright
by Richard Wright
Wright, Richard Nathaniel
Wright, Richard A.
General Fiction
Trials (Murder)
Psychological fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Perennial Classics
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.98x5.30x.94 in. 1.01 lbs.

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Featured Titles » Banned Books » Literature
Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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Native Son (Modern Classics) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 544 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780060837563 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Widely acclaimed as one of the finest books ever written on race and class divisions in America, this powerful novel reflects the forces of poverty, injustice, and hopelessness that continue to shape society.
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