Why does Wright include the scene involving the rat? What is it meant to show us?

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The opening scene in Chapter 1 of Native Son offers us several glimpses into Bigger Thomas and where he comes from. For example, the Thomas family is poor as evidenced by the small one room apartment with only two beds for four individuals. Those tight, cramped quarters are magnified by the appearance of the large rat in their room. It is through the episode with the rat, however, that we learn far more about Bigger's personality and temperament than anything else. Bigger is angry, has a violent streak, and can erupt at anyone and anything that provokes him--whether it is the rat, his mother, or his younger sister. It is only in his interactions with and attitude toward his younger brother that we see the slightest glimmer of humanity in Bigger Thomas. All of the character traits come to play throughout the rest of the novel, particularly in relation to his attitude and behavior toward others.

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