Richard Wright’s novel Native Son tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a 20-year-old African American young man born into extreme poverty in Chicago’s South Side. The narrative occurs in the 1930s, which allows Wright to present the de facto inequality that is so prevalent in Bigger’s life and in American society as a whole.
Bigger dreams of becoming a pilot and flying the planes he observes cruising the sky above Chicago. During one of Bigger’s reveries about becoming a pilot, his friend Gus responds:
If you wasn't black and if you had some money and if they'd let you go to that aviation school, you could fly a plane.
In this single response, Gus identifies multiple ways in which Bigger will not realize his dream: the color of his skin and the discrimination associated with getting jobs and matriculation as well as his lack of money to pay for school. At this point, flying becomes a metaphor and symbol for freedom.
In 1930s America, there was de jure racial equality but de facto racial...
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