Main Themes In Native Son By Richard Wright

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Richard Wright was born and raised in Mississippi in 1908. He is one of the greatest black writers and he was amongst one of the first African American Writers to become famous. As a child, Wright lived in Tennessee, he later on went to an orphanage and he also got to live with some of his relatives.

Richard Wright’s principal reason in the novel is to extend the story, represent a considerably more serious risk, question or compromise his male authority. The protagonist of the novel is Bigger Thomas a 19 years old boy. The Native Son novel is not separated into sections or chapters, and it demonstrates an attempt by Wright to draw nearer to the truth of regular day to day life. In Native son, Richard Wright calls the reader to understand how Social roles like poverty and prejudice might have an impact on how the person thinks and behaves in a society.

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Every character of the mind of Wright, presents by an activity of individual identity, an alternate size of danger to Bigger’s male power. The author’s gender influences the way women are portrayed in Native Son and emphasizes on the fact that the main protagonist of the novel is a male figure. Richard Wright based on his own life experience as an African American male who lived in the South.

The Language in Native Son

In the Novel Native son, there is domination of the figurative language and the mood is melodramatic.

Use of imagery Example:

“He licked his lips; he was thirsty. He looked at his watch; it was ten past eight. He would go to the kitchen and get a drink of water and then drive the car out of the garage.” (Native Son)

In the quote passage above, Richard wright uses simple and short sentences in the novel, and the use of imagery dominates the first two books of the novel.

Use of Symbolism

In the novel, there is also the use of symbolism.

The rat

The rat at the beginning of the novel, symbolizes the conditions in which Bigger family live in and their poverty. The rat also symbolizes how Bigger’s fear can lead him to behave in a certain way, and how it can lead him to kill. It symbolizes how women are weak in a way that a single rat can attract fear and negative energy to them.


“No, he did not have to hide behind a wall or a curtain now; he had a safer way of being safe, an easier way. What he had done last night had proved that. Jan was blind. Mary had been blind. Mr. Dalton was blind. And Mrs. Dalton was blind, yes, blind in more ways than one.” (Native Son 145)

The female figures in the Native son are all symbolic of Blindness. Mary Dalton was a communist sympathizer and truant. Mary Dalton, a white girl was blind on the way that, she tried to show Bigger that whether whites or blacks they are all human beings. And she could not see and understand that Bigger was evil and he did not have a single appreciation by white people and he ended up murdering her.

Mrs. Dalton was blind in all senses, physically and in the other context of the novel. On the way that, she entered in the room and she could not notice Bigger’s presence in there. Mrs Dlton could not notice that Mary was dead while she had stood over her bed in the room the night she was killed.

Women are associated with gossiping and they are not trusted to carry secrets from other people. Bigger Thomas told Bessie about the murder he committed on the house of the Daltons. Bessie was blind on the sense that, she trusted on Bigger and she was also blind about his love for her. Although she was his girlfriend, she was a victim of one of Bigger’s violence and murdered for knowing too much.


Some of the themes in Native Son include: The theme of race and segregation, the theme fear, the theme of religion.

The theme of race in Native Son

All the half-educated blacks and the ones of mixed blood were seen as unstable, cunning, crafty, not to be trusted. In Native some they are considered to be two worlds, the white world and the black world physically separated. There were schools for blacks and schools for whites to not mix the races and it is also believable that there is a white God and a black God because churches are also separated. The white people segregated the blacks residentially and living under the Jim Crow Laws to restrict them under different and beneficial activities. Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and Border States, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. At the beginning of the story, bigger gets angry at the driver because he is told to seat at the back of the bus where the negros or blacks belonged, a very clear fact of segregation. Everything the protagonist of the novel does has a relationship with the color of his skin.

The theme of Segregation and women oppression in Native Son

In Richard’s Wright most known novel, “Native Son’, the female characters are not free, and they just exist in connection to male figures of power around as spouses, boyfriends, children and obviously also connected to Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of the novel. The role of each woman Native Son presents to us is insignificant without a male part, women cannot function as independents.

Stereotypes are more detailed regarding the male and female sexes. Black men were supposed to be unambitious, desirous of raping white women, possessing large sexual organs. Black women were regarded as sex objects, beasts of burden, and poor lovers. Black women were portrayed as physically ugly, mentally deficient, limited emotionally, moody and unstable.

Bigger’s mother represents the African American mothers, their desire of thinking about their children’s wellbeing and life first before thinking about their own selves. She sacrifices daily to raise Bigger, Vera, and the other young boy Buddy. Bigger’s mother has hope in her son, that he can change the bad and criminal life he had chosen for himself. She prays that Bigger can find a better life in God.

Bigger’s younger sister, Vera, represents how black girls are limited in Native Son, she is associated with domestic jobs such as cleaning, and housekeeping although she attends sewing classes. The African-American women were portrayed as not being as educationally proficient as the whites. The African-American women have been stereotyped in the direction of them been acceptable only in the kitchen. Vera loves her brother, but he treats her bad and he is very mean to her.

Bessie, Bigger’s girlfriend represents the abused and violated black women by men, due to the lack of power to fight back. In Native son black women are seen as powerless and even after she is murdered by the boyfriend, people don’t even focus on her murder but only that of the white girl Mary Dalton. She represents how black girls are meaningless as compared to white girls.

Peggie is the black woman responsible for taking care of Dalton’s house. That shows how black women are portrayed as instruments and maids to satisfy the white people’s need.

The theme of fear

Fear is one of the important themes of the novel by Wright as it is the primary motivator of Bigger to commit the two murders of Mary Dalton and Bessie. On the other hand, white people also have fear of the black people because they associate them with all the bad things as rapes, robberies and murders. There is also the so-called “rat scene” which creates fear to Biggers’s family in the first scene of the book. Bigger and his family wake up in their room and are faced with a very rat which is killed by Bigger.

“There is! The mother screamed again.

A huge black rat squealed and leaped at Bigger’s trouser-leg and snagged it in his teeth, hanging on. Goddam! Bigger whispered fiercely, whirling and kicking out his leg with all the strength of his body”. (Native Son 43)

The rat had fear to be killed so it started producing some sounds of defiance and Bigger did not feel some mercy if not killing it. Bigger Thomas expresses his fear in a various forms: anger and the violence against people who create fear on him.

The theme of religion

In Native Son, there is also a belief in religion and in God. The characters from Native Son get their comfort in God. An example of that is Bigger’s mother. Everything she does, she does it with faith and she even sings to Lord, as the passage below indicates.

‘Lord, I want to be a Christian

In my heart, in my heart

‘Lord, I want to be a Christian

In my heart, in my heart…’ (Native Son 73)

On the other side, the protagonist of the novel compares Religion with alcohol, as it is easier to bear but it does not solve problems. Although the protagonist does not believe completely in Religion at the beginning of the Novel, He comes to realize it when he is about to die in the cross by the KU KLUX KLAN as the black Jesus referred in the novel.

The theme of Territoriality

As the title of the novel says Native Son, and it calls the reader’s attention on territory and nativism. From the context and the life in the novel there is not equal treatment between whites and blacks although they are all born in America. The territory is stated to belong to the white people, making them the natives of the land and the Negros have no place in there. There is tension between the protagonist’s native and his lack of political rights. Mr. Dalton is Bigger’s, for example, is Bigger’s employer and landlord. While this might have been a common occurrence, the author of the novel, fashions this detail within the rubric of Marxism. In this regard, Mr. Dalton is evidence of the essentially feudal relationship between property-owner-the whites versus laborer-the blacks.


The native son’s narrative takes place on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, in 1930. In The Book 1 of the novel, the setting was essentially in the house where Bigger lived and the area around it. In Book 2, the story unfurls in the more extravagant neighbourhood where white individuals lived, for example, the Daltons. In the last book, the setting was in a jail where Bigger was in and in the court. Since it was in the midst of the Great Depression before the period of social liberties, while including how the social issues of the time, for example, isolation and prejudice were in the region, this influences the goals of the story in Native Son because of these issues. So a risk of violence has happened at sometimes between the blacks who were tired by the white people’s abuse.


The essay covered the main issue in Native Son. The experiences passed by women as characters of the novel. It also comprised and analysed the language used in the novel, the themes written by Wright in the novel and the setting.


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