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    “The Theme of violence in Richard Wright’s Native Son”. Essay

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    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. Goodies Deana 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 dehumidifying” 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.

    Deana explains that Bigger is a frustrated individual who is forced to live in a violent place full of whites who fail to recognize his presence and consider him inferior (44). Bigger feels “transparent” when he is in the presence of the whites (58). Goodies Deana declares that Bigger longs to be able to enter this “white world” (135). Bigger declares that he feels as if he is “on the outside of the world peeping in through a knot-hole in a fence” (20). Bagger’s statement proves he feels Like an outsider to the real world, and something is preventing him from reaching his desires.

    The setting of this novel makes a major contribution to Wright’s theme of violence. The Imagery In Native Son Is a very Important feature In creating the theme of violence. Wright uses animal Imagery In this novel to Imply a great deal of violence. Robert Butler theorizes that “black people, Like the rat, are cornered, for they are forced to live In a teeming ghetto” (33). In the first scene, Bigger Is ordered by his mother to kill the “huge black rat” which Is scuttling around the apartment (9). Butler asserts that Wright “associates the situation of the rat” with Bagger’s family (31). All apartment that has a “door leading only into another trap, the ghetto. ” (32). Bigger is compared to the rat when he destroys it with “clenched teeth” (9), and is forced into “violent action” (8). Robert Feller agrees that Bigger “will be a black rat in the white man’s world” who is searching “desperately for a hole to crawl into” (63). After killing Mary and running from the police, he tells his girlfriend Bessie that hiding in the old abandoned houses will be like “hiding in a Jungle” (228). Feller believes that the Jungle is the “kingdom of the beast”, and the beast is the mass of whites who want to destroy him (64).

    Feller refutes that violence is “the law of the jungle”, and in order to survive you must be a “cunning and fierce animal” that must “kill before one is killed” (66). Therefore, animal imagery plays a very significant role in developing the theme of violence. The image of Bagger’s killing of Mary contributes greatly to the theme of violence. The way in which Bigger murders Mary and disposes of her body is a very gruesomely depicted image. When her blind mother enters her bedroom, Bigger unintentionally murders Mary by smothering her in order to keep her quiet (86).

    Bagger’s violence is emphasized when he mutilates her body and places her in the furnace (91). Kowalski agrees by suggesting that the motivations for his deeds barely seem important when “he begins to saw and hack through the neck of Mar’s corpse” (48). When Bigger attempts to put Mar’s body into the furnace, she does not fit and he is forced to cut off her head (91). Bryant explains that no one can feel or understand “the fear, the frenzy, [and] the frustration” of Bigger Thomas. The image of Mar’s murder is a very violent and disturbing image. Therefore, the imagery in Native Son lays an essential role in creating the violent theme.

    The evident symbolism in Native Son plays a very important part in developing the theme of violence. Two very crucial symbols are the colors black and white. Hughes explains that the color white symbolizes “wealth and power” while black usually represents “poverty and misery” (60). When Bigger is in the presence of whites he feels aware of this difference and it infuriates him. While he is with Mary and Jan he feels “conscious of that black skin” which is his “badge of shame” (67). He feels a sense of aggression toward the whites who caused this shame.

    A white symbol which is a threat to Bigger is the white cat that catches him in the act of burning Mary Talon’s body. Feller confirms that the white cat is a “symbol of white guilt and hostility” (64). The cat watches Bigger put Mar’s body in the furnace, with eyes that are “two green burning pools” of “accusation and guilt” (91). The cat looks at him with aggression and looks to be a threat to Bigger. These black and white symbols contribute greatly to the violent theme. The next symbol in Native Son is blindness. Kent mentions that blindness is shared by both whites and African Americans (34).

    Mary looks at Bigger with “dark sockets” as he carries her up to her room (81). Butler theorizes that Mary is “blind to the powerful emotional forces she is releasing in Bigger” (43). Joyce believes the Dalton are “blind to his humanity”, therefore he can use this flaw to influence their thoughts with her communist boyfriend (153). The Dalton do not think that Bigger is capable of murdering their daughter in their own home. Therefore, blindness is one of the major symbols contributing to the violent theme Native Son, Bigger Thomas finds a sense of purpose through his violent acts.

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    “The Theme of violence in Richard Wright’s Native Son”. Essay. (2018, Oct 20). Retrieved from

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