Places Discussed

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*Chicago

*Chicago. Illinois’s largest city and the industrial center of the Midwest. Richard Wright’s family was one of thousands of southern black families that migrated to Chicago between 1916 and 1920 and eventually settled in the South Side ghetto, where Wright grew up. His protagonist, Bigger Thomas, has the same Chicago background. Wright’s novel depicts the city as a virtual prison of brick and concrete walls and narrow streets that shut out the light in his corner of the world. The physical limits of Bigger’s world reflect the limited opportunities for black men in the white-controlled world. Bigger feels constricted by his limited space, as though he is on “the outside of the world peeping through a knot-hole in the fence.”

Three major scenes of violence show Bigger’s progressive dehumanization: his killing of a huge rat, his attack on Gus in a poolroom, and his accidental killing of Mary Dalton in her bedroom. Denied space and privacy by being forced to live in one room, Bigger’s entire family is dehumanized. There, the young Bigger corners and kills the huge rat that terrorizes the family. The room is a death trap for both Bigger and the rat, with whom he identifies. He admires the rat’s strength and defiance even as he beats it to death.

After Bigger kills Mary, his view of the city mirrors his inner chaos. Avoiding the police, he heads for his mistress, Bessie’s, place along streets that are but “paths through a dense jungle” of black, empty buildings with “black windows like blind eyes”—a surrealistic landscape over which street lamps cast a ghostly sheen. In Bigger’s eyes, the city is filled with rotting, tumble-down buildings that symbolize his own disintegration into guilt and fear. After involving Bessie in a plot to extort money from the Daltons, he and Bessie drive through a howling blizzard that symbolizes Bigger’s inner tumult. When he realizes that Bessie’s knowledge could send him to prison, he rapes and kills her. Now on the run, he experiences the city as a labyrinth in which the police are closing all means of exit. When the police find him in the ghetto, he is on a water tower on a rooftop, paralyzed by the cold jets of water that the police use to immobilize him.

Chicago’s South Side

Chicago’s South Side. Even when the family moves from its one-room apartment to the larger world of Chicago’s South Side, Bigger still feels trapped in his environment. As he struggles to fit in with his black cohorts, he finds himself trapped by fear again. He is afraid to join his street gang in robbing the white-owned grocery but is also afraid to confess his fears to his companions. To cover his fear, he fights with Gus in a poolroom and terrifies him with a knife.

Dalton home

Dalton home. Mary Dalton’s family home, located at 4605 Drexel Boulevard. Her home symbolizes the white man’s world that Bigger covets and fears. Her house is surrounded by a black iron picket fence that both constricts and excludes Bigger after he becomes the Daltons’ family chauffeur. When he drives Mary and a friend to Ernie’s Chicken Shack, he is invited to join them. Inebriated by heavy drinking at Ernie’s, Bigger loses his grip on reality. As he drives the girls back home through Washington Park, he becomes increasingly excited and follows Mary through the “dark and silent” house to her bedroom. When Mrs. Dalton enters the room as Bigger is about to make love to Mary, he accidentally smothers Mary while trying to keep her silent. Faced with his fear...

(This entire section contains 712 words.)

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that he has killed Mary, Bigger loses his grip on reality. He sees the house as haunted, the room filled with hazy blue light, and the whole scene dissolving into a “vast city” of angry whites seeking vengeance.

Prison

Prison. Place where Bigger awaits execution after being convicted of his crimes. The prison becomes his place of transformation. Only when he faces the truth that he has built his own traps by his violent acts can he discover his innate sense of humanity and displace his killer instinct with acts of friendship and concern for others.

Historical Context

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The Great Migration
Blacks had been leaving the South since the Emancipation Proclamation, but the numbers coming north increased dramatically over time. In 1910, blacks in America were overwhelmingly rural, with nine out of ten living in former Confederate states. From 1915 to 1930, one million blacks moved north. Richard Wright was part of this exodus from poverty and racism. By 1960, 75% of blacks in America lived in northern cities. This incredible alteration in the demographics of the United States had a profound effect on blacks as well as the political makeup of the nation as a whole. There are many reasons for this, the most important being the tremendous disappointment that met the individual migrants when they reached the North. The rapid infusion of people into the northern cities produced the ghettos described in Native Son. In addition, little effort was made to integrate the new arrivals with the rest of society. Instead, as Max argues with Mr. Dalton in Native Son, concerted efforts were made to keep them in the ghetto.

The Great Depression
The stock market crash of 1929 and the following years of high unemployment hit blacks even harder than whites. Nationwide, the unemployment rate jumped from 15% in 1929 to 25% in 1933. Between 25 and 40% of all blacks in major cities of the country were on public assistance. By 1934, 38% of blacks could not find wage earnings higher than the subsistence provided by public relief. As with Bigger Thomas, most blacks—if they could find employment—worked menial, low-paying jobs. In response to these conditions, artists and intellectuals took on radical politics and openly questioned American political institutions and values.

Political Freedom
Although the country had still not entered World War II, the United States Congress passed the Smith Act. This extended the prohibitions of the Espionage Act of 1917. The Smith Act made it a crime to advocate the overthrow of the government. Whether in publication or in membership of a political group—such as the Communist Party— it was illegal to challenge the legitimacy of the United States government. The act indicated an increased atmosphere of intolerance for alternative political ideas, which would eventually culminate in the McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s.

Setting

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Although no specific city is mentioned, the setting resembles Chicago of the late 1930s. Wright points out the sharp contrasts between the black slum world and the affluent world of the Daltons, which has been built at the blacks' expense. Wright sets the particular hardships of black residents of South Side Chicago against the background of the Great Depression, political and economic corruption, and urban blight. Native Son explores the social unrest created by the hard economic times and the attendant interest in radical political solutions represented by Marxists such as Jan Erlone and Boris Max.

In creating Native Son Wright drew upon his memories of nearly ten years' residence in South Side Chicago, sociological studies of Chicago compiled by Louis Wirth, and material taken directly from the highly publicized trial of a Chicago black man named Robert Nixon. Eventually convicted and electrocuted for murdering a white woman with a brick, Nixon was at one point defended by the leftist International Labor Defense. Wright made considerable use of the sensational racist media coverage of the Nixon trial.

Literary Style

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Point of View
An important technique employed in Native Son is a third-person limited narrative structure. This technique reveals all the action in the novel but limits it to the perspective of the central character. The narrative voice, then, takes on the vantage point of—but does not become—Bigger Thomas. Consequently, other characters appear flat because they are visible only through this limiting filter.

One advantage of this technique is that the reader becomes close to the protagonist. In other words, since the point of the novel is to reveal the mind of a dehumanized black man cornered in the ghetto, the reader must identify with Bigger. Wright wanted readers to understand how hostile the American environment is to those who have already been excluded based on skin color.

Setting
In Native Son, Wright suggests that environmental conditions play a role in Bigger’s psychodrama. Bigger sees the Dalton’s neighborhood as “a cold and distant world.” He learns that Mr. Dalton owns the South Side Real Estate Company, which in turn owns the decrepit house in which his family lives. During the trial, Max confronts Mr. Dalton, charging that the inadequate housing he rents to blacks contributes to their oppression.

A sense of claustrophobia pervades the work. Bigger’s family is crowded into a rat-infested room. His hangouts include the street, where he feels like a rat. At one point, Bigger admits to feeling “bottled up” in the city like a “wild animal.” He also feels that the “white world sprawled and towered” above him. The murder occurs when Bigger is trapped in Mary’s room. As Bigger flees the police manhunt, a record-breaking snowfall hits, blocking all roads in and out of Chicago and trapping Bigger in the city. The novel ends with Bigger alone in a small prison cell.

Symbolism
The drama of Bigger Thomas plays out in much the same way as the opening drama of the rat’s death. Both Bigger and the rat find themselves trapped, leaving them little choice but to fight for survival. The rat is closely associated with the decrepit environment that constitutes ghetto life. The novel consistently reveals the psychology of Bigger as being similar to the rat, caught in the confines of a “narrow circle, looking for a place to hide….” Conversely, the white cat at the Dalton house symbolizes the justice system of the whites. Bigger does not like this cat because of the attention it draws to him when it lands on his shoulder. When the cat will not easily go away, the reader senses Bigger’s eventual capture.

Bigger himself reflects on the degree to which those around him see the predicament of blacks and whites. Mrs. Dalton is blind, literally and metaphorically. She cannot see that her desire for Bigger to further his education is not what he wants from life. The rest of the family is blind to its own biases. The family’s claim of having liberal politics is undercut by Max’s charge that Mr. Dalton perpetuates the “black belt.” The name Dalton ironically recalls daltonism—color blindness.

Literary Techniques

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In Native Son, Wright uses the same combination of direct, naturalistic prose and symbolism that he employed in Uncle Tom's Children. He carefully reconstructs the physical reality of South Side Chicago, using material gathered from sociological studies as well as his own experience. He then skillfully invests objects with symbolic significance, a technique that helps him overcome the linguistic limitations of his inarticulate protagonist.

But the most striking characteristic of Wright's method in Native Son is the stylistic shift in the last third of the novel. "Fear" and "Flight" are driven by violent, fast-paced action and terse, concrete prose that has been called some of the best suspense writing in American literature, but "Fate" is static, and Wright's prose moves toward the formality of exposition. This final section is often openly propagandistic, as Wright uses Boris Max to articulate the theoretical basis for Bigger's rebellion. In effect, "Fate" is as much an explication of what has preceded it as it is a conclusion to the narrative.

Literary Qualities

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In Native Son, Wright uses the same combination of direct, naturalistic prose and symbolism that he employed in Uncle Tom's Children. He carefully reconstructs the physical reality of South Side Chicago, using materials gathered from sociological studies as well as from his own experience. He then skillfully invests objects with symbolic significance, a technique that helps him overcome the linguistic limitations of his inarticulate protagonist.

The most striking characteristic of Wright's method in Native Son is the stylistic shift in the last third of the novel. "Fear" and "Flight" are driven by violent, fast-paced action and terse, concrete prose that has been called some of the best suspense writing in American literature, but "Fate" is static, and Wright's prose moves toward the formality of exposition, explaining rather than showing the reasons for Bigger's behavior. This final section is often openly propagandistic, as Wright uses Boris Max to articulate the theoretical basis for Bigger's rebellion. In effect, "Fate" is as much an explication of what has preceded it as it is a conclusion to the narrative.

Called the black version of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Native Son more closely resembles the naturalistic works of Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis than did Uncle Tom's Children, Wright's previous book. Bigger's willful violence makes him at best an anti-hero, and any hope for improvement seems remote. Wright's careful documentation of Bigger's condition and his reproduction of newspaper accounts are reminiscent of the popular social novels written by John Dos Passes, John Steinbeck, and James T. Farrell. At its worst moments, Native Son echoes the cold, analytical prose of much proletarian literature.

Social Concerns

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In Native Son Wright shifted his focus from the South to the problems of urban blacks in the North, but his picture of a two-tiered society based on racial discrimination and the protection of property rights remained the same. Although the racist thugs of Uncle Tom's Children are replaced by avaricious landlords, irresponsible journalists, and brutal police in Native Son, the slums of South Side Chicago, like the rural South portrayed in Uncle Tom's Children (1938), are places in which the dreams of success are available to all but the means to achieve them are restricted to the few.

The particular hardships of black residents of South Side Chicago are set against the background of the Great Depression, political corruption, wealthy capitalists, and urban blight. Native Son explores the social unrest created by the hard economic times, particularly the interest in radical political solutions represented by Marxists such as Jan Erlone and Boris Max.

In creating Native Son, Wright was able to use his personal experience of nearly ten years' residence in South Side Chicago, sociological studies of Chicago compiled by Louis Wirth, and considerable material taken directly from the highly publicized trial of a Chicago black man named Robert Nixon. Nixon was eventually convicted and electrocuted for murdering a woman with a brick, and at one point, he was defended by the leftist International Labor Defense, but Wright made most use of the sensational, racist media coverage of the Nixon trial.

Additional Commentary

Native Son depicts a world that is psychologically and physically brutal. Wright graphically portrays the emotional trauma that his black characters suffer because of white dominance, and he describes in gruesome detail the violence that accompanies Bigger's anger. Bigger saws off Mary's head; he smashes Bessie's face with a brick; he contemplates rape; he has no guilt for retribution against whites, no sympathy for religion or kindness. He is, as many critics have noted, one of the most despicable protagonists in literature. But Wright's defenders also note that the absence of morality provides a vehicle for looking at the raw reality of Bigger's world—a world that, for a part of his life, was Wright's own reality. In the tradition of naturalistic fiction, Native Son examines the cruelty of nature's indifference, and the evil that occurs because of humankind's intervention. In spite of its positive ending, in which the reader understands that Bigger can die fulfilled because he has found his identity, the novel will offend everyone, which is its purpose.

Compare and Contrast

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1940s: Workers during the Great Depression are faced with unemployment rates as high as 25% and relief comes through socialistic government programs. The U.S. also increases defense spending as officials realize the nation will become involved in World War II.

Today: Unemployment stands around 6%, but corporate downsizing has many workers concerned about their future. The government must reduce a multibillion dollar deficit, yet the stock market continues its strong performance.

1940s: Blacks are excluded from the suburban housing boom of the era. The Federal Housing Authority practices “redlining”: on city maps it draws red lines around predominantly black inner-city areas and refuses to insure loans for houses in those areas. This practice contributes to the demise of the inner city.

Today: Though many upper- and middle-class blacks live and work in the suburbs, poor blacks are often confined to substandard housing in decaying urban areas, or ghettos.

1940s: Race relations are tense as blacks grow frustrated with segregation and discrimination. In southern states, poll taxes and literacy tests are used to prevent blacks from voting. Tempers explode during race riots in Detroit and Harlem in the summer of 1943.

Today: Though civil rights legislation enacted during the 1960s has improved the conditions of minorities, particularly African Americans, the nation was polarized along racial lines in the debates over the Rodney King and O. J. Simpson trials.

Literary Precedents

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Called the black version of An American Tragedy (Dreiser, 1925), Native Son adheres more closely to the naturalistic method practiced by Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis than Uncle Tom's Children had. Bigger's willful violence makes him at best an antihero, and any hope for melioration seems remote. Wright's careful documentation of Bigger's condition and his reproduction of newspaper accounts is reminiscent of the popular social novels written by John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, and James T. Farrell. At its worst moments, Native Son echoes the cold, analytical prose of much proletarian literature.

Media Adaptations

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Richard Wright himself starred in a low budget film adaptation of Native Son in 1950. The film, directed by Pierre Chenal, is available on video from Classic Pictures Incorporated.

Native Son was adapted to film in 1987. The film, directed by Jerrold Freedmand, starred Victor Love as Bigger Thomas, Elizabeth McGovern as Mary Dalton, Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Thomas, and Matt Dillon as Jan Erlone. The film was produced by Diane Silver for Cinecom Pictures.

Several recordings have been made of the novel. The most recent one was done in 1991 by Caedmon Productions.

Richard Wright gave a talk on March 12, 1940, at Columbia University which explained his ideas about Bigger Thomas in Native Son. This talk has since been published as “How ‘Bigger’ Was Born” and is included in most recent editions of the novel.

For Further Reference

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Avery, Evelyn Gross. Rebels and Victims: The Fiction of Richard Wright and Bernard Malamud. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1979. Discusses Wright's protagonists as examples of alienated black rebellion.

Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son. Boston: Beacon Press, 1955. Includes "Everybody's Protest Novel" and "Many Thousands Gone," essays that criticize Wright for sensationalizing and exaggerating black life.

Bone, Robert. Richard Wright. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1969. A short pamphlet that effectively introduces Wright's work and explores his attraction to existentialism.

Brignano, Richard. Richard Wright: An Introduction to the Man and His Works. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970. A thematically arranged study that includes a particularly thorough examination of Wright's use of Marxism.

Fabre, Michel. The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright. New York: William Morrow, 1973. A complete and reliable biography that includes critical evaluation of Wright's work.

The World of Richard Wright. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985. A collection of essays that is particularly useful in understanding Wright's exile and his relationship to existentialism.

Hakutani, Yoshinobu. Critical Essays on Richard Wright. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. A valuable collection of original and reprinted articles that covers the range of Wright's fiction and nonfiction, and an introduction that provides a thorough overview of the relevant criticism.

Kinnamon, Keneth. The Emergence of Richard Wright: A Study in Literature and Society. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973. Critical and biographical study that examines Wright's development up to the publication of Native Son.

Margolies, Edward. The Art of Richard Wright. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969. The first booklength study to focus on Wright as an artist as well as a proletarian writer.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources
James Baldwin, “Many Thousands Gone,” in Partisan Review, Vol. XVIII, 1955, pp. 665-80.

David Bradley, “On Rereading Native Son,” in The New York Times, December 7, 1986, pp. 68-79.

Robert Butler, Native Son: The Emergence of a New Black Hero, Twayne Publishers, 1991, 132 p.

Ralph Ellison, “The World and the Jug,” in New Leader, Vol. XLVI, December 9, 1963, pp. 22-6.

Hilary Holladay, “Native Son’s Guilty Man,” in The CEA Critic, Winter, 1992, pp. 30-6.

Irving Howe, “Black Boys and Native Sons,” in A World More Attractive, Horizon Press, 1963, pp. 98-110.

Joseph Hynes, “Native Son Fifty Years Later,” in Cimarron Review, January, 1993, pp. 91-97.

Maria K. Mootry, “Bitches, Whores, and Woman Haters: Archetypes and Typologies in the Art of Richard Wright,” in Richard Wright: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Richard Macksey and Frank E. Moorer, Prentice Hall, 1984.

Charles Poore, review in the New York Times, March 1, 1940, p. 19.

Theodore Solotaroff, “The Integration of Bigger Thomas” (1964), in his The Red Hot Vacuum & Other Pieces on the Writings of the Sixties, Atheneum, 1970, pp. 122-32.

For Further Study
Richard Abcarian, Negro American Literature, Wadworth, California, 1970. A fundamental commentary on African American literature, its roots, and importance in the canon. There is a significant discussion of Richard Wright’s novel.

Gordon W. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice, Cambridge, 1954. A fundamental source to understand the problem of prejudice and racism in general and concepts such as visibility and difference.

James Baldwin, “Many Thousands Gone,” in Partisan Review, Vol. XVIII, 1955, pp. 665-80. Baldwin argues that “protest” novels, like Native Son, do little to advance the cause of racial justice in America.

James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, Dell, 1961. Baldwin’s essays about African Americans and Black literature. Some of them include references to his mentor, Richard Wright, whom he later rejected.

Russel Carl Brignans, “Richard Wright: An Introduction to The Man and His Works,” University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970, p. 147. Brignans posits that Bigger Thomas was a precursor of the existentialist hero more closely associated with French literature.

Arthur Davis and Michael W. Peplow, Anthology of Negro American Literature, Holt, New York, 1975. A collection of critical essays on African American literature, including Richard Wright’s texts, plus a very clear and interesting introduction.

Ralph Ellison, “The World and the Jug,” in New Leader, Vol. XLVI, December 9, 1963, pp. 22-6. Ellison believes Native Son has an aesthetically narrow view of the black experience in America because it is filtered through a sociopath, Bigger Thomas.

Leslie Fiedler, “Negro and Jew: Encounter in America,” in No! In Thunder, Stein and Day, New York, 1972. This article investigates the relationships between Jews and African Americans in the United States. Useful to understand the relationship between Bigger and Jan.

Katherine Fishburn, Richard Wright’s Hero: The Faces of a Rebel-Victim, Scarecrow Press, 1977. Fishburn declares that Bigger is an anti-hero whose quest for freedom leads to his ultimate alienation from the world.

Irving Howe, “Black Boys and Native Sons,” in A World More Attractive, Horizon Press, 1963, pp. 98-110. Defending Wright against Ellison and Baldwin, Howe asserts that Native Son continues the tradition of black protest through literature and takes that protest to a higher level.

Dale McLemore, Racial and Ethnic Relations in America, Boston, 1980. An advanced study of the subject of ethnic relations in the United States with a large section devoted to African Americans and a discussion of cultural versus racial differences.

Maria K. Mootry, “Bitches, Whores, and Woman Haters: Archetypes and Typologies in the Art of Richard Wright,” in Richard Wright: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Richard Macksey and Frank E. Moorer, Prentice Hall, 1984. Mootry asserts that Bigger is unable to see women as human beings who have the same rights to expression as he does. Consequently, this restricted view makes his self-destruction a foregone conclusion.

Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark, Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Picador, 1992. This work contains the ideas of the Noble Prize winner about African American literature: its roots, purposes, and future.

Charles Poore, review in the New York Times, March 1, 1940, p. 19. Poore sums up the excitement surrounding the release of Native Son.

Louis Tremaine, “The Dissociated Sensibility of Bigger Thomas in Native Son” in Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 14, No. 1, Spring, 1986, pp. 63-76. Tremaine views Bigger as a man hungering for selfexpression even though he knows that expression is denied him.

Bibliography

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Emanuel, James. “Fever and Feeling: Notes on the Imagery in Native Son.” Negro Digest 18, no. 2 (December, 1968): 16-24. Identifies and examines clusters of images and symbols present in the novel. Concludes that Wright uses this sprawling network of images to deepen the reader’s understanding of Bigger and Bigger’s feelings about himself and his environment.

Felgar, Robert. “The Kingdom of the Beast: The Landscape of Native Son.” CLA Journal 17 (March, 1974): 333-337. Enlightening, important discussion of the novel’s depiction of society as a jungle. Convincingly contends that animal imagery pervades the novel and posits that the book’s many beast images objectify white society’s stereotypical conception of the African American world.

Kinnamon, Keneth, ed. New Essays on “Native Son.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Presents a thorough examination of the genesis and background of Native Son. Kinnamon analyzes Wright’s own essay “How ‘Bigger’ Was Born” along with letters, notes, manuscripts, and galley and page proofs to show how external forces influenced the writing of the novel.

Magistrale, Tony. “From St. Petersburg to Chicago: Wright’s Crime and Punishment.” Comparative Literature Studies 23, no. 1 (Spring, 1986): 59-70. Argues that, in composing Native Son, Wright was greatly influenced by Fyodor Dostoevski’s novel Crime and Punishment (1966). Pinpoints and analyzes in detail a number of significant similarities between the two novels. Convincing and informative in its treatment of the novel’s debt to the Dostoevski classic.

Nagel, James. “Images of Vision in Native Son.” University Review 35 (December, 1969): 109-115. Perceptive, highly instructive analysis of Wright’s use of sight and blindness in the novel. Argues that blindness is the novel’s controlling image and that it functions throughout the book as a metaphor for white America’s racial myopia. Remains, even after its initial publication in 1969, one of the most insightful articles ever written on the novel.

Siegel, Paul N. “The Conclusion of Richard Wright’s Native Son.” PMLA 89, no. 3 (May, 1974): 517-523. Detailed, illuminating interpretation of book 3 of the novel. Sets out to refute the frequently advanced criticism that book 3 is the novel’s weakest section. Maintains that the lengthy trial that concludes the novel, far from being repetitious and anticlimactic as many critics have claimed, is an integral part of the book’s artistry and message.

Skerrett, Joseph T., Jr. “Composing Bigger: Wright and the Making of Native Son.” In Modern Critical Interpretations: Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Offers an illuminating analysis of the biographical aspects of Native Son. Skerrett argues convincingly that Richard Wright and Bigger Thomas share many attributes.

Williams, John A. The Most Native of Sons: A Biography of Richard Wright. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970. Provides a solid biography for the general reader. Williams places Wright in his historical context both at home and abroad, giving a sense of the man and his times.

Wright, Richard. Early Novels: Lawd Today! Uncle Tom’s Children, Native Son. Vol. 2 in Works. Edited by Arnold Rampersad. New York: Library of America, 1991. Reinstates significant cuts that were made in Lawd Today! and Native Son. The volume, however, also deserves attention for its detailed chronology, which reads like an excellent biography.

Wright, Richard. “How ‘Bigger’ Was Born.” In Native Son, by Richard Wright. Reprint. New York: Perennial Library, 1987. Details the genesis of Native Son. The author describes five Bigger Thomases, dating back to his childhood. Wright is his own best critic.

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