In Native Son, disscuss how Bigger feels while being so close to Jan and Mary.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Wright does a good job of bringing out how fundamentally uncomfortable Bigger is with Jan and Mary.  From the moment, Jan rebukes social custom and drives to the shared dining experience at Ernie's Chicken Shack, Bigger is completely uncomfortable.   The fact that Jan and Mary insist that he eat with them in public and that Bigger's girlfriend sees him and starts to talk with him only add to his discomfort.  The challenge Bigger finds is that to be socially relegated and maligned creates an understanding of where boundaries and parameters lie and where they need to be respected is something that he has lived with all his life.  Jan and Mary insist that those be shed in an instant, something that creates a complete sense of confusion within Bigger.  At the same time, it is difficult to realign personal codes of conduct reaffirmed by social punishment in so quick of an instant.  Adding to this is the collision of roles that he feels in terms of how he is to behave in public with Jan and Mary and Bessie, Bigger's girlfriend.  There is a collision of titanic proportions in terms of how Bigger is "supposed" to act and how he can act and this impacts him on both gender and racial levels.  It is for this reason that the movement of Jan and Mary on a level of such close proximity causes a challenge for Bigger in terms of recognizing how he needs to act, how he should act, and how he wants to act. Given how Bigger himself is maturing and developing, such massive change is challenging for him to navigate.  This is something that the consumption of alcohol worsens, leading to a really disastrous element at the end of the section.


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