Native Son by Richard Wright
Native Son by Richard Wright is a novel that tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African-American man who lives in Chicago's South Side during the 1930s. The novel is divided into three parts, each of which depicts a significant moment in Bigger's life.
Part One is the exposition of the novel, where we are introduced to Bigger and his family. Bigger is the breadwinner of the family, and he is not happy with his life. He feels oppressed and frustrated by the limitations society has imposed on him. Bigger takes a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family, the Daltons. The Daltons' daughter, Mary, is a communist, and Bigger is hesitant to drive her around. However, Mary's friend, Jan, convinces Bigger to take them to a restaurant. After the dinner, Bigger takes Mary back to her bedroom, but she is too drunk to make it to her bed. Bigger tries to cover her with a blanket, but he accidentally smothers her. Bigger panics and decides to burn her body in the furnace. This is the inciting incident of the novel, and it sets off a chain of events that will change Bigger's life forever.
Part Two focuses on the investigation into Mary's disappearance. The police quickly realize that Bigger is involved, and they put pressure on him to confess. Bigger's lawyer, Max, is a communist, and he tries to help Bigger by arguing that society is to blame for his actions. However, Bigger does not trust Max, and he refuses to take his advice. Bigger is eventually found guilty and sentenced to death. This part of the novel shows the injustices that Bigger faces as a black man in a racist society. It also highlights the limitations of the legal system in protecting the rights of marginalized individuals.
In Part Three, Bigger is in jail awaiting his execution. He has a conversation with Max, who tries to convince him that his life has value. Bigger begins to understand Max's perspective, and he realizes that he was a victim of his circumstances. Bigger accepts his fate and is executed. This part of the novel shows Bigger's transformation from a hopeless and oppressed individual to someone who understands the value of his life. It also highlights the power of human connection and empathy in bringing about change.
Throughout the novel, Wright explores the themes of racism, poverty, and oppression. He shows how these forces shape Bigger's life and ultimately lead to his downfall. The novel is a powerful commentary on the state of race relations in America during the 1930s, and it remains relevant today. Wright's use of language and symbolism creates a vivid portrait of Bigger's world and the forces that conspire against him. Native Son is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of race and class in America.