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Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son

by Richard Wright

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,279751,076 (3.94)294
Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright's novel is just as powerful today as when it was written -- in its reflection of poverty and hopelessness, and what it means to be black in America.… (more)

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» See also 294 mentions

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native son really goes out of its way to refuse the humanity of women, especially black women.

we take in the story from bigger's pov, which is flawed of course, wright's major accomplishment with this novel being that it takes the most difficult route in proving its point. wright asks the reader to find humanity in a character who has done great wrong, uses violence to mask feeling, is filled with hate for even close friends and family and is entirely devoid of ambition--he takes the sorriest man he can find & shows us how to find the empathy that the jurors at the end cannot, shows us how within violent systems of oppression our lives become self-fulfilling prophecies delivering us to the same sad ends. he allows the conscience of bigger to explode w/ imperfections & weaknesses but gives him the character of max to work through these things with. (max is the mediator, too, for a 1940s white readership that may have needed to see the possibility of racial unity & a more heavy handed breakdown of why Bigger's crimes were the inevitable product of this world.) & so much of it is addressed & dealt with EXCEPT for the ways all of these feelings have been taken out on the women in the novel.

this passage really has haunted me:

"But rape was not what one did to women. Rape was what one felt when one's back was against the wall and one had to strike out, whether one wanted to or not, to keep the pack from killing one. He committed rape every time he looked into a white face. He was a long, taut piece of rubber which a thousand white hands had stretched to the snapping point, and when he snapped it was rape. But it was rape when he cried out in hate deep in his heart as he felt the strain of living day by day. That, too, was rape."

i can't get over the horrid audacity of writing that first sentence in a novel where the most significant black woman character is raped and brutally murdered AND left to freeze to death (this last bit so unnecessary as it just gives characters even more opportunity to emphasize how unimportant Bessie's rape and death were). her body literally becomes a piece of evidence in the trial. but we are given this passage. rape is what happens to an oppressed man. there is no character in the novel to check this (even Max glosses over it) and who even could--where are the women? their suffering is met w/ rage & dismissal & glowing hatred. they are barely characters.

while some of the flaws of the novel are a part of its construction, this bit has weighed too heavy on me for the past few days. of course this book is powerful, important, well written, etc but i am curious how so many people can read it without being totally incapacitated by the brutal murders of these two women, which are collateral for the realizations of men (about everything but society's treatment of women, especially women from minority groups who feel the violence of oppression in so many different ways). which is a horrifying part of the world that churns eternally--deadly & invisible. i would not say don't read this book but i will say maybe you should read the street by ann petry instead. ( )
  freakorlando | May 14, 2020 |
“If one had to identify the single most influential shaping force in modern Black literary history, one would probably have to point to Wright and the publication of Native Son.” – Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“The most powerful American novel to appear since The Grapes of Wrath. . . so overwhelming is its central drive, so gripping its mounting intensity.” (New Yorker)
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  StJamesLenoir | Apr 25, 2020 |
Hijo nativo (R.Wright)
Ve y dilo en la montaña (J. Baldwin)
  LaBibliotecadeBabel | Mar 17, 2020 |
Amazed that I am just now reading this classic for the first time. Saddened how really not much has changed. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Mar 14, 2020 |
I listened to this on audio and turned it off a couple dozen times. Disturbing, How disturbing? It makes "Crime and Punishment" read like "Chicken Soup for the Soul". The graphic plot morphs into some very long sermons and finishes with a stunning literary scene. Stick with it. ( )
1 vote Sandydog1 | Oct 30, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wright, Richardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Diaz, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fisher, Dorothy CanfieldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olzon, GöstaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pellizzi, CamilloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Phillips, CarylIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rampersad, ArnoldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reilly, JohnAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solotaroff, TheodoreAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Oggi ancora il mio lamento è ribellione, la mia piaga è piu' grave dei miei sospiri" Libro di Giobbe, 22,3
Even today is my complaint rebellious,
My stroke is heavier than my groaning.
A mia madre- che, quando ero bimbo alle sue ginocchia, m'insegno' l'ammirazione e il rispetto delle cose e degli uomini immaginosi e fantastici.
My Mother
who, when I was a child at her knee, taught me to revere the fanciful and imaginative
First words
Brrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinng! An alarm clock clanged in the dark and silent room.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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AR 6.1, 24 Pts
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