In Richard Wright's Native Son, what is Bigger saying when he tells Gus that white folks live right down here in my stomach?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hello! You asked about Richard Wright's Native Son. Richard Wright is one of the most important African-American authors of the twentieth century. In the novel, Bigger Thomas, who is twenty years old, lives in a one room apartment with his mother, Mrs. Thomas, his brother, Buddy, and his little sister, Vera. In the beginning of the novel, the family's morning routine is disrupted by the presence of a rat. Both Bigger and Buddy eventually kill the rat, but Bigger teases Vera by swinging the huge, dead rat in front of her. She faints in fright and their mother is furious. She berates Bigger, and later on, when the family sits down to breakfast, she nags him again, telling him that he will end badly if he keeps living the life he's been living. She continues to taunt him about whether he is going to take the job offered by the wealthy Mr. Dalton, even after he swears that he is going to. Even his sister Vera warns him to stay away from the members of the gang he's been hanging out with—Gus, GH and Jack—and to remember to get that all important job that's going to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. He is frustrated that everyone in his family seems to be ganging up on him.

He does meet up with his friends in the poolroom and they plan to rob a white business by the name of Blum's Delicatessen. As they have never robbed a white business before, all of them are nervous. Eventually, the talk turns to the differences between white and black people. Bigger is deeply unhappy that he is not free to do the things that white people get to do and to go to places white people get to go to. When Bigger asks Gus where white people live, he answers that they live "right down here in my stomach...every time I think of 'em, I feel 'em...it's like fire..." To Bigger, white people are everywhere, their power is ubiquitous (present everywhere) and he is powerless to stop this encroachment into the lives of his own people. Bigger is deeply resentful that his people are defenseless against poverty, crime and degradation.

Thanks for the question.

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