In the opening of Native Son, what are some examples of symbolism?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is one main symbol seen in the opening of the novel Native Son.

At the opening of the novel, Mrs. Thomas sees a rat and demands that Bigger kill it. Bigger begins to hunt the rat in order to carry out his mother's orders.

When Bigger finds the rat, both the rat and Bigger seem to be in a fight for their lives. The rat begins to attack Bigger in order to escape, while Bigger attacks the rat in order to do as his mother demands.

The symbolism of both the rat and the battle are seen throughout the novel: the rat illustrates the life one living in the ghetto must accept (kill or be killed) as does Bigger. The battle itself represents the constant struggles which exist as part of living in the ghetto. Later, in the novel, one can compare Bigger to the rat: Bigger finds himself always caught and looking for somewhere to hide.