Native Son Ambiguity

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In Native Son, Richard Wright strives to provide the perspective of a black man in the 1930s through the narrative of Bigger Thomas, a man who begins working for the Daltons, an affluent white family, only to accidentally murder their daughter Mary. Through Bigger 's life in Chicago coupled with his experience of white society through the Daltons, Wright reflects on how a black man can be shaped by the society or world that confines him. The resulting moral ambiguity, regarding Bigger, his true motivations, and the depth of societies’ accountability provides readers with new ways of dealing with and defining its American black subjects. Wright 's novel asks the reader to re-imagine the pre-conceived roles assigned to the black communities…show more content…
By not providing Bigger with a single characterization for his actions, Richard Wright is essentially rejecting the roles that have been traditionally given to black characters in stories. The ambiguity of Bigger’s intentions is what ultimately distinguishes Bigger as not only a black character but as a protagonist in a novel from the conventional black characters of the 1930s. According to Gregory Phipps in “He Wished That He Could Be an Idea in Their Minds”: Legal Pragmatism and the Construction of White Subjectivity in Richard Wright’s Native Son, a single interpretation of black subjects is an analysis that “emerges from an oppressively narrow and short-sighted context that inevitably will give way to a broader understanding” (340). Bigger’s level of complexity forces the reader to go beyond this single interpretation of his identity and conveys the idea that black subjectivity in America can be interpreted in ways other than the preconceived positions already assigned to them. The contrasting ideas of morality between the defensive reaction to racism as he murders Mary Dalton versus the lack of outside motivation behind Bessie’s death completely undermines the role Bigger is given based on his race. Wright’s novel discovers the potential for a black man to occupy the role of an American protagonist through Bigger’s
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