Native Son

Philo on Books

My edition of Native Son contains an introduction by Arnold Rampersadin in which he notes that the challenge for Wright was how to make sympathetic a protagonist—Bigger Thomas—who is possibly the least likable central character in all of literature. It also contains Wright’s essay “How ‘Bigger’ Was Born,” wherein the author explains how the character is based on innumerable people he encountered in real life, tough, angry folks—mostly black, but some oppressed people of other groups—who openly defied the law and societal conventions and made themselves a thorn in the side of authority, until, usually, they came to an early demise.

Having now read the book, I find both of these points rather puzzling, though more so the second.

As to the first, while there are undeniably unappealing things about Thomas, Wright hammers home the message from the first to the last page of the book that the worst elements…

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