Native Son Questions and Answers
by Richard Wright

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Is Wright using Bigger's dream of flying planes in a symbolic way?

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A recurring theme in African American literature is one of flight or escape.  African folk tales often chronicle this flight theme with characters turning into birds to escape their plight.  Flight means freedom, and for the African American who has been enslaved and discriminated against, it is seen as a symbolic theme in their literature. Bigger’s desire to leave his circumstances and to escape is symbolized by the plane he dreams about.

Bigger Thomas has lived a horrible life without opportunity and feels powerless as a black man.  Wright tells us about Bigger’s feelings when he writes,

"Well, they own everything. They choke you off the face of the earth. They like God..." he swallowed, closed his eyes and sighed. "They don’t even let you feel what you want to feel. They after you so hot and hard you can only feel what they doing to you. They kill you before you die." 

The lack of opportunity and the feeling that he can never achieve because of the oppression he feels, Bigger Thomas dreams of escaping where he will have control over his own life.  The plane symbolizes Bigger’s desire to control his own destiny. 


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