Stereotypes In Richard Wright's Native Son

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Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son, tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young, African American man living in the segregated poverty of Chicago’s south side during the 1930s. Bigger lives in a system of oppressor and oppressed where the socially imposed race inequality creates a white oppressive force that requires the subjugation of the black “other”. The process of othering is “the perception or representation of a person or group of people as fundamentally alien from another, frequently more powerful, group” (Oxford English Dictionary “Othering”). Wright’s novel examines the common stereotypes regarding race that are used by the white-controlled media as racial propaganda and a black male protagonist’s search for agency in a repressive society.…show more content…
In book one, before seeing a movie with Jack, Bigger looks at the movie posters in the lobby of the cinema: “Two features were advertised: one, The Gay Woman, was pictured on the posters in images of white men and white women lolling on beaches, swimming, and dancing in night clubs; the other, Trader Horn, was shown on the posters in terms of black men and black women dancing up against a wild background of barbaric jungle” (Wright 32). The posters demonstrate the stark contrast between the representations of black and white races in the media and continue the idea of black inferiority. While The Gay Woman associates white people with civilized, opulent world of wealth and parties, Trader Horn depicts blacks as radically foreign and inferior savages. White society, by producing these images in popular culture, has control over the social dialogue regarding race. The oppression of Bigger and other African Americans is perpetuated by a society saturated in racist propaganda. The acceptance and implication of these images is shown through the language used to reference Bigger during his trial. The prosecuting lawyer, Buckley, refers to Bigger as a “half-human black ape” (Wright 373) multiple times over the course of the trial. Buckley’s language accesses the deeply ingrained cultural misconceptions that have led to an automatic assumption of white superiority. By using this image to condemn Bigger, Buckley extends the subjugation and othering of African
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