Topics for Further Study
Read Ann Petry’s The Street. Compare the climactic death in that novel to the crimes of Bigger Thomas. Does Lutie Johnson’s escape from the street justify her crime and the abandonment of her child? Is she an innocent victim of circumstances or did she take advantage of circumstances?
Consider the following list of questions compiled by Robert Butler as the essential list critics have long struggled with: “Is the novel an artistic success, or is it crude propaganda that is deeply flawed by the melodramatic action and stereotyped characterization required by the advancement of a political thesis? Does the book supply a believable vision of race relations in America? Does it provide an accurate image of Afro-American life? Is the central character a boldly conceived new hero, or is he an overdrawn, heavily exaggerated, symbolic monster?”
Do some research on living conditions in Chicago in 1940. How realistic is depiction of the city in the novel compared to your research? (Start with the article “Native Son: The Personal, Social, and Political Background,” by Kenneth Kinnamon.)