Native Son by T. D. Hamm
“Native Son” is a groundbreaking novel by the American author Richard Wright, first published in 1940.
The book tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African American man living in poverty in the segregated neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side during the 1930s.
The novel opens with Bigger Thomas waking up in his family’s cramped apartment on the morning of his new job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family. Bigger is filled with a sense of hopelessness and anger at the constraints of his life and the racist society in which he lives. As he begins his job, he is acutely aware of the power dynamic between himself and his white employers, and he is constantly on guard, fearing that he will do something wrong and be fired.
Despite his best efforts to stay out of trouble, Bigger’s life begins to unravel when he accidentally kills the daughter of his white employers. The rest of the novel follows Bigger’s attempts to evade the police and escape punishment for his crime, while also grappling with his own sense of guilt and the systemic racism that has shaped his life.
Through the character of Bigger Thomas, Wright explores the complex psychological and social effects of racism and poverty on African Americans living in the United States in the early 20th century. Bigger is a deeply flawed character, filled with anger and violence, but he is also sympathetic in his struggles against the forces of oppression that have shaped his life.
As Bigger navigates the legal system and tries to evade capture, Wright offers a searing critique of the racism and injustice that pervades American society. He depicts the police as brutal and racist, and he exposes the ways in which the legal system is stacked against people of color, particularly when they are accused of crimes against white people.
Throughout the novel, Wright also explores the complex social and economic dynamics at play in the relationships between African Americans and white Americans. He portrays the white characters as cold and distant, and he highlights the ways in which their wealth and privilege are built on the backs of African Americans like Bigger, who are forced to work menial jobs for low wages.
At the same time, Wright also examines the internal dynamics of the African American community, highlighting the tensions between different social groups and the difficulties of creating solidarity in the face of systemic oppression.
Overall, “Native Son” is a powerful and deeply affecting novel that offers a searing critique of racism, poverty, and injustice in American society. Through his vivid portrayal of the character of Bigger Thomas, Wright captures the complex psychological and social effects of living under systemic oppression, and he exposes the ways in which racism pervades every aspect of American life. A seminal work of African American literature, “Native Son” continues to resonate with readers today as a testament to the enduring legacy of racism and the power of literature to challenge and provoke us.