Examine the main characters from Native Son and "The Man Who Was Almost A Man."

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a permanent sense of loss that is intrinsic to both Dave and Bigger.  Wright constructs both protagonists with an understanding that the potential for social change rests with illuminating a historical reality.  For Bigger and Dave, they are fundamentally without power.  They receive littler in their social settings in which they have control over their own lives.  Opportunities for both the rural Dave and the urban Bigger are few and far between. They both live in worlds where their lack of power is part of their fundamental state of being.  It is within this where their only fleeting experiences with power are external and actually do them more harm than good.  Dave with his gun and Bigger's physical strength are not real demonstrations of power.  Rather, Wright creates both characters in having to only embrace these displays as power.  Bigger's physical strength is what he interprets as having power to stop the misunderstanding of him being with Mary.  It is also a display of power when Bigger kills Bessie. Yet, Bigger really has no power and his external display is a temporal one at best, something that can only briefly put aside his condition of being helpless.  Dave's obsession with the gun is because of his lack of power.  He "feels" powerful with it.  It is here where Wright suggests that individuals who lack power require external displays to temporarily offset the pain of powerlessness in their own being.  Both characters do not display a true sense of power from within, primarily because their social conditions do not foster or embrace such a form of consciousness.  It is here where major similarities exist between Bigger and Dave, in representing a lack of power and seeking out anything which can temporarily provide it.

Read the study guide:
The Man Who Was Almost a Man

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question