Analysis of Native Son character Bigger Thomas and the effects of racism on his psyche.

Essay by lucky666High School, 11th gradeA+, February 2004

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The protagonist and main character of Native Son is Bigger Thomas. He is the focus of the novel and the embodiment of its main idea--the effect of racism on the mental state of its black victims. Richard Wright's exploration of Bigger's psychological corruption gives us a perspective on the effect that racism had on the black population in 1930s America. Some critics of Native Son have questioned the effectiveness of Bigger as a character. For instance, the famous black writer James Baldwin has considered Bigger as too narrow to represent the full scope of black experience in America, but I believe he is a powerful and disturbing symbol of black rage.

As a 20-year-old black man cramped in a Chicago South Side apartment with his family, Bigger has lived a life defined by the fear and anger he feels toward whites. Bigger is limited by the eighth-grade departure from school, and by the racist real estate practices that forced him to live in poverty.

Furthermore, he is subjected to messages from a popular culture that portrays whites as civilized and sophisticated and blacks as barbaric and subservient. Racism has severely reduced Bigger's opportunities in life and even his conception of himself. He is ashamed of his family's poverty and afraid of the whites who control his life--feelings he works hard to keep hidden, even from himself. When these feelings overwhelm him, he reacts with violence. "These were the rhythms of his life: indifference and violence; periods of abstract brooding and periods of intense desire; moments of silence and moments of anger--like water ebbing and flowing from the tug of some far-away, invisible force." (31) Bigger robs people with his friends--though only other blacks, as the gang is too frightened to rob a white man--but his own violence is often...