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Essay/Term paper: Native son: bigger

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Essays

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Native Son: Bigger

Who can forget the fires blazing over local buildings during the Los
Angeles Riots? Unfortunately the whole event does not seem as if it was too far
off in the past. Although today we live in a nation, which has abolished
slavery, the gap between the whites and the blacks during the early stages of
America's development has plainly carried into the present. In Native Son,
author Richard Wright illustrates this racial gap, in addition to demonstrating
how white oppression upon blacks is capable of producing revengeful individuals,
not to mention being an immoral act in itself. Bigger Thomas is one of those
individuals, who discovers his capacity to rebel through acts of murder against
the white society, which has for long oppressed his family, friends, and himself.
By tracing Bigger's psyche from before the murder of Mary Dalton, into the
third book of the novel, and into the subconscious depths of the final scene,
the development of Bigger's self realization becomes evident.
An entire period of Bigger's life, up until the murder of Mary Dalton,
portrays him under a form of slavery, where the white society governs his state
of being. While he worked for the Daltons, "his courage to live depended upon
how successfully his fear was hidden from his consciousness"(44), and hate also
builds on top of this fear. Once he is in contact with Mary, his fears and hate
pour out in a rebellious act of murder, because to Bigger Mary symbolizes the
white oppression. In addition, he committed the act, "because it had made him
feel free for the first time in his life"(255). At last he feels he is in
control of his actions and mentality. He rebels against the burden of the white
man's torment. He had "been scared and mad all . . . [his] life"(328), until he
killed Mary. After this, he was not scared of anyone, anymore. Thus, the
murder of Mary Dalton serves as a turning point in Bigger's life, for it breaks
him free of subservience to anyone other than himself, and it is the initial
stage in creating an identity for himself.
Book three of the novel offers an emotional confusion within the mind of
Bigger, which soon leads him to contrive a self-realization. Immediately one
observes that "toward no one in the world did he (Bigger) feel any fear
now"(254). This is a recent change in Bigger's mind set. He knows that he has
pushed himself to the limits, and he is in control of what he says and does. He
tries firmly to "stifle all feeling in him[self]"(262) when talking to his
visitors in the jail, because he feared that they "would make him feel
remorseful"(262). In this manner, he is able to not confuse his thoughts with
any feelings, so he can sort out his ideas. This is the self-isolating process,
which occurs mentally, and this enables Bigger to formulate a justification for
his sins. "Men do not like to feel that they are guilty of wrong, and if you
make them feel guilt, they will try desperately to justify it on any
grounds"(360), which is precisely what Bigger is attempting through mental
detachment. Bigger "didn't know I (he) was really alive in this world
until"(392) he killed Mary Dalton. Bigger realizes that he committed the
murders in order to establish his existence in this world. Wright utilizes this
perception to elevate Bigger to the stature of a tragic hero. In addition, he
also uses the argument that Bigger is a victim of his environment to achieve
the same status. Therefore, a mass of confusion leads Bigger to realize that he
only wanted to be a somebody in this world.
Furthermore, the final scene, in which Max and Bigger converse, Wright
elaborates upon Bigger's final attempt to explain his reasons for committing the
murders. Because Max asks Bigger befitting questions, Bigger feels as if Max
truly is the one who understands him. Unfortunately, "Max' eyes were full of
terror"(392) at hearing of Bigger's final reasons for killing Mary and Bessie.
Max' reaction obviously indicates that even he cannot truly understand Bigger's
actions, nor Bugger himself. In the end, Bigger remains alone, like he always
has been. Also, as Max walks away, Bigger "smiled a faint, wry, bitter
smile"(392). This distorted smile implies that Bigger has not fully come to
understanding himself, and his only just beginning to comprehend certain aspects
of himself. As a result, it infers that Bigger knows that no one will ever
understand him, as he would like.
Hence, Bigger develops his self-realization from the murders of Mary
Dalton, the prison environment in the third book, and the symbolic final scene
between Bigger and Max. Consequently, from this study of Bigger's psyche, it is
evident that the "Bigger That Might Have Been" is basically: 'a decent man';
such a result to become of Bigger, however, may only occur if Bigger's father
was present, his family was not so impoverished, or even if he had maintained
his job working honestly for the Daltons. To produce the "Bigger That Might
Have Been," slavery should never have occurred!


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