In Native Son, how does Richard Wright express Bigger's imprisonment from day-to-day until his trial?

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writergirl1207 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Native Son, Richard Wright uses events from an actual crime to illustrate the racist attitude present at the time the book was written that Black people were subhuman. Because of this prevailing attitude, Black people could be seen and portrayed in the papers as animalistic, especially when violent crimes were committed by Black people against white people.

After Bigger is arrested for the murder of Mary, a white girl, he is angry and scared. It is safe to say that Bigger has been angry his entire life: he grew up in abject poverty and lived within the inescapable boundaries of racism that tried to keep him in poverty. Bigger spends much of the novel angry and afraid.

During his period of incarceration, Bigger at first refuses to speak or eat. His anger and fear remain and are exacerbated by the racist police department, who charge him with additional crimes he is not guilty of. However, gradually Bigger begins to realize that not all white people are the enemy, because Mary's boyfriend finds him a lawyer to represent him and appears not to judge Bigger for the murder, which was committed out of fear more than anything.

Bigger tries to explain to those around him as he awaits death that he has learned there are white people who are good to Black people and that he was wrong to hate and fear them without getting to know them. He confesses to raping and murdering Bessie and Mary and is at peace with himself when he is executed.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bigger's time in jail up to the trial is filled with violations of this civil rights and dehumanization. Just before he goes to jail, he is beaten severely and never seems to get medical attention. At first, he seems to be in a trance and unaware of what is happening. When the district attorney questions him he calls Bigger by the humiliating term "boy". He's taken and left in chains at his pretrial hearing. A white mob is allowed to gather outside Bigger's cell and yell insults at him. At the inquest, Bessie's body is brought in of proof he raped Mary. This is a violation of due process--claiming if a defendant committed one crime he must be guilty of another. After the inquest, Bigger is taken to be to the crime scene and asked to reenact the crime in front of the press. This is an obvious violation of his right against self-incrimination. Today, all of these events would be grounds for dismissal of the charges. Unfortunately, the novel is set in Chicago before the civil rights movement. Nevertheless, Wright fill the pages with enough material for the reader to gain sympathy for Bigger in spite of the fact that earlier, he was not as sympathetic a character.