“As the car lurched over the snow he lifted his eyes and saw black people upon the snow-covered sidewalks. Those people had feelings of fear and shame like his….To Bigger and his kind white people were not really people; they were a sort of great natural force, like a stormy sky looming overhead, or like a deep swirling river stretching suddenly at one’s feet in the dark. As long as he and his black folks did not go beyond certain limits, there was no need to fear that white force. But whether they feared it or not, each and every day they lived with it.”
A classic, Richard Wright’s Native Son is a powerful story about a young black man who, in a state of panic, kills a white girl. When I first read this book, I was startled and certainly unprepared for what awaited each page. It was not the murder that shocked me, it was Wrights talented description of Biggers inner turmoil, not as a murderer but as a Black man in 1930s America and the fear and shame of that alone that coincided with his actions. Not in a justifying way, but in a way that painted the picture of what it looks like when fear manifested itself into the physical; when it rose from that invisible feeling, the beating heart and sweaty hands, and into the full image of its potential. Native Son in essence shows us the danger of that kind of fear and not just the danger, but what it looks like. The image of fear wrapped in black skin, smack down in the midst of white America.
“Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been assault or petty larceny; by change, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930’s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.” – Book Blurb