Native Son Character Analysis
Native Son By Richard Wright Bigger Thomas, I believe, is neither the protagonist nor antagonist of Native Son. Richard Wright uses Bigger to show how the mindsets of blacks were psychologically altered due to racism in the 1930’s. Bigger’s life was lived in constant anger and fear towards the whites who were always portrayed as better and superior forcing him and the rest of the black community to live in poverty, segregated from the white community. Another emotion he also felt was power in a twisted way when he murdered Mary, the feeling that he had power to exert over the whites since he was able to murder one.
He struggled with getting his true feelings out and is helped by his lawyer Max. Max tried to show the people that Bigger is not the only one who is like this and that continual racism resulted into the horrid death of Mary Dalton which can only be prevented in future cases if America realizes what racism could do to the psychological being of a human being. From the start Bigger held this anger within him against the whites for controlling his life and not letting blacks do what white folks could.
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As he talks with Gus in the beginning of the book he questions white authority with anger because he didn’t have the same opportunities as they did just because he was black. He says that when he thinks about it he could feel anger rising within him and feels that something really bad is going to happen. (page 20) Bigger also had feelings of fear when it came to confronting the white supremacy. When he suggested that they should rob Mr. Blum he himself was scared to do it but said they should do it because he wanted to look strong and not weak in front of his friends.
Secretly he was glad that Gus did not want to do it because that allowed a way out of the robbery. When Gus tells him that he was a coward he attacks Gus and beats him up for ruining the plan. (page 37) Bigger though was secretly afraid of robbing Mr. Blum because Mr. Blum was white. Although there was a low chance of being caught just the thought of doing a crime against a white person was nerve racking for him. That is how racism instilled fear into the black community because cops would be more willing to take care of crimes done onto white people than crimes between black people. page 23) Already blacks like Bigger were being raised with anger and fear in their hearts because of the racism and segregation they have felt their whole life by living in poverty. Because of this fear it lead to Bigger turning his fear into anger towards his friend who was easier to fight than the white people that Mr. Blum represented. As he goes to the meeting with Mr. Dalton he feels fear of going to see white people in a white community so he brings his gun so he could put himself on the same level as them. (page 41)
Once Bigger is admitted into the Dalton household he feels overwhelmed by the difference of the home of the Daltons and his own. (page 59) As he was being interviewed Mary Dalton came into the room and started asking him questions about unions, but that made him feel very uncomfortable because the media told him bad things about unions although he did not know exactly what they were. He comes to hate her because although Mary is trying to reach Bigger he feels ashamed, confused, and angry that she would speak directly to him, a black man. He felt immensely confused with how he should react to her. pg. 51) As his interaction with Mary, and later Jan, increases he grows nervous when they start speaking to him as if he was a human being not a black person. He constantly felt wary and wondered if they were secretly making fun if him through out the night. (pg. 70) As he takes Mary home drunk he accidently kills her. (pg. 87) The cause of killing her was unintentional but deep rooted in the racism that he had felt his whole life. The idea of a black man in the room of a white woman who was drunk ultimately leads to the conclusion of rape no matter the case.
Therefore Bigger felt trapped and tried to smother her voice when Mrs. Dalton came into the room to stop that horrible assumption from occurring. When he realizes what he had done he gets over it surprisingly quick and immediately acted to hide her dead body. When he had finished hiding her body in the furnace he devises a plan to blame the communist Jan. (pg. 88) Richard Wright does not want to make it seem like Bigger is any protagonist, but wants to show the effect that racism had on Bigger who felt anger which accidently leads to murder.
Later on this murder boosts his megalomania, and he believes that now he has the upper hands over the white people who always oppressed him because he had murdered one of them without any of them knowing the fact. (pg. 116) Bigger gets caught up with all the lies that he has spouted and is eventually found out when he cleans the furnace only to find her bones and earring remaining. (pg. 220) He attempted to run away, but a manhunt was put into place all over Chicago to find him. Overnight he had become the most famous and hated man of Chicago. (pg. 242) Soon after his capture (pg. 70) he is offered help from Jan and a lawyer named Max. (pg. 290) Max is Mr. Wright’s voice trying to explain to the world that racism is what had brought Bigger to murder Mary Dalton. His goal is not to try to bring Bigger to justice and innocence, but to show how badly racism had affected the black community. Making them live in poverty and making them feel inferior to whites has caused a psychological effect upon the mindset of many blacks. Max is the only one in the whole book who understands Bigger Thomas the most and instead of treating him as a black man or murderer he talks to him as if he was a human being.
Bigger gets to tell Max his story (pg. 347) and Max conveys his feelings to the judge. He asks not for Bigger’s innocence, but instead he asks for them to see the result of racism within Bigger and how he should be not put to death for what society and media has made him to be (pg. 487). Bigger Thomas comes to realize that it is possible to have a relationship between black and white men with Max and as Max pleaded his case it was to no avail that he finally understood because the judged ruled in his death.
Bigger Thomas is the result of how racism could affect the psychological well being of a human being. Bigger was Richard Wright’s warning of racism. He uses him to show how racism or segregation could make one feel so much anger and fear for others. In the end Bigger was able to see white people as other human beings (Max and Jan) when he tells Max to say hello to Jan for him; he realized that because of his upbringing and the psychological effect the media and white society placed on him he was a victim of society.