Richard Wright's "Native Son" is a social protest novel reflecting his absolute horror at the condition of the relations between the black and white societies in America. Wright emphasizes that the rage felt by all black Americans is the direct result of white racism. Bigger Thomas is a product of this society, and is driven to hostile actions as a result of his rage. The central theme of this novel is one of violence. The three components developing this theme are elements of setting, imagery, and symbolism.
One important element in developing Wright's theme of violence is the setting. This novel takes place in Chicago, where there is a vast difference between the lives of the black and the white society. Robert Bone emphasizes that we are depicted as a "nation divided against itself" where there is "hatred and resentment" of the black population (484). The hostility felt by the African Americans is a direct result of the oppression from the white society.
Seodial Deena claims that the black world is like a "black hell", while the white world is like a "bright heaven" (137). Bigger and his family must live in a "tiny" single room apartment which is overrun with rats (4). Robert Bone states that the Thomas family's living conditions are "grossly dehumanizing" because their home "denies them space and privacy" (31). There is a great difference between the living conditions of blacks and whites in the city of Chicago. Wright reveals the white neighborhood as a "cold and distant world" with "white secrets carefully guarded" (44). Thus, the racial conflicts in Chicago play a very important role in developing Wright's theme of violence.
The second aspect of the setting which attributes to the violent theme is the isolation of Bigger Thomas. Deena explains that Bigger is...