Our 2012 November Book Selection:
Native Son by Richard Wright
Native Son (1940) is a novel by American author Richard Wright. The novel tells the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago’s South Side ghetto in the 1930s. The novel’s treatment of Bigger and his motivations conforms to the conventions of literary naturalism.
While not apologizing for Bigger’s crimes, Wright is sympathetic to the systemic inevitability behind them. As Bigger’s lawyer points out, there is no escape from this destiny for his client or any other black American, since they are the necessary product of the society that formed them and told them since birth who exactly they were supposed to be. “No American Negro exists,” James Baldwin once wrote, “who does not have his private Bigger Thomas living in his skull.” Frantz Fanon discusses this feeling in his 1952 essay L’Experience Vecue du Noir, or “The Fact of Blackness”. “In the end,” writes Fanon, “Bigger Thomas acts. To put an end to his tension, he acts, he responds to the world’s anticipation.”