Analysis of “Native Son”: the problems of racial discrimination and life under Jim Crow laws

“Native Son” was written by an African-American named Richard Wright. This book was published in the year 1940. Bringing to light hardships that African Americans faced in Chicago during the 1930’s. This book is based upon a young, poor black man’s life named Bigger Thomas. Who is living in a shaggy apartment with his family on the, south side of Chicago during a time of extreme racism and white supremacy, and feels his life has no meaning because of how his family and him have been treated by white’s over the years. With so many feelings towards not only how the whites treat him, but the fact Bigger is ashamed of how his family must live turns and turns to a life of crime. In which his crime and bad choices in life catch up to Bigger. The 1930’s was also historical a hard time for most colored people who faced racism, housing segregation issues. Making it hard for them to find job’s, get decent education and live decent lives.

“Native Son” is the life of a young man named Bigger Thomas living in a cramped shaggy apartment with his mother and siblings. He hates that his family must live in poverty and distress, and how he is unable to really help them. Which causes major depression for Him. Bigger has an interview. Where he is hired as a chauffeur for the Dalton’s. He starts to become rather interested with Mary Dalton, who speaks to him as a human being. Then one day when Bigger was suppose to take Mary to school, she had other plans with her boyfriend Jan Erlone. This night the guys decide to eat at a diner on the south side and get drunk. After dropping off Jan, Bigger notices Mary being too drunk. So he decides he should walk Mary to her bedroom, but then this makes Bigger horny. Bigger then kisses and touches her and, as he is doing Mary’s blind mother walks in. frightened Bigger puts a pillow over Mary’s face, causing her to die. With fear he decides to burn the body in there basement, and act as though nothing has happened, and try to get Jan blamed for everything. Bessie, Biggers girlfriend gives him a nondirected, but direct idea that inspires him to collect ransom money for the Dalton’s “missing” daughter, until her bones are found in the furnace. Which makes Bigger flee with Bessie overcome with fear that Bessie will tell on he beats her to death with a brick. Even though he ran away he is caught, and a man named Max represents Bigger. In which he tries to save him from death penalty. Max argues that, Biggers crimes are from his hopeless existence from birth and if America doesn’t end their hatred that there will be more man like Bigger to come. But that is of no help Bigger is still sentenced to death.

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The historical period of this time was, when the country was not only recovering from the Great Depression, but unemployment rates were high, segregation and racism was too. The Great Depression made it even harder for Blacks to find work. Many whites called from them to be fired from their jobs as long as whites are without work AKA “last hired and first fired”. This is a period where blacks in Chicago living in the south side was very poor, living in unsanitary, overcrowded and many people shared one-bedroom apartments causing many diseases to spread. Blacks living in this area felt little hope for their future, and better lives. This fits perfectly into the history of Richard Wright’s life, because growing up he not only witnessed racism, but he experienced the hatred many white supremacists had towards Blacks. Growing up with laws like Jim Crow that mandated segregation of public schools, transportation, restrooms, restaurants etc. stating “separate but equal.” Which is hard to believe because, there was nothing equal about the Jim Crow laws. While they were not legally enslaved, they were mentally enslaved by the man. Wright’s family was poor and his father like many others was illiterate.

In my opinion this book is a classic. “Native Son” gives you so much detail of a life of a black man who was oppressed by his situations and felt like he was drowning, a quote from the book “We live here and they live there. We black and they white. They got things and we ain’t. They do things we can’t. It’s just like living in jail.” If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what else will. This book perfectly captured the down fall of society and the helplessness many minority Americans felt during this time. How even though society and laws have said that minorities were free they were not. “Native Son” accomplished what Richard Wright intended it too. I particularly enjoyed this book with the suspense, and insight of what living as a black African American in America must have been like. Wright’s work provides a somewhat accurate image of the history during this time, of there poverty and hardships but, his work may be somewhat distorted. During this time there were many African Americans doing amazing things for people of their race like the NAACP fighting to promote equality rights and to fight race prejudice in the United States.

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Analysis of “Native Son”: the problems of racial discrimination and life under Jim Crow laws. (2022, Nov 23). Retrieved from