Why did the author choose 'Bigger' as the name of the protagonist in Native Son?

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard Wright wrote an extensive essay entitiled "How Bigger Was Born," but he never touches upon the subject of this unusual first name. The suggestion, though, is two-fold:

1) 'Bigger', the comparative form of 'big,' implies the maturation of the growing child into adulthood; it also suggests a situation which cannot be self-contained because it 'grows.'  In Bigger's  case, an urban child deprived of normal self-estime grows into a kind of destructive monster. In a Frankensteinish way, Bigger the criminal is a product of society more than a person fashioned by his own will.

2) 'Bigger' suggests the perjorative racist insult "Nigger." Bigger can't get away from prejudice and deprivation any more than he can get away from himself. Here is depreciation rather than augmentation (as in no. 1); both are aspects of the same problem. An interesting sidenote: "Denegration" -etymologically speaking- means "being treated as a Negro." May the term speak for itself....

There is a rather lengthy but interesting essay on "the making of" Bigger as the novel's protagonist at the following reference. It is well worth the read - enjoy!