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Native Son

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  54,049 ratings  ·  2,283 reviews

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, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on

Kindle Edition, 532 pages
Published June 16th 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 1940)
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Ben Siems
Dec 04, 2013 Ben Siems rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
My older brother Larry, who is extremely well-read, recently came to town for a visit. He had with him a copy of Native Son. I asked what prompted him to re-read it. He explained that he had actually never read it before, which he confessed was really odd, given that the book is an undisputed classic.

Well, here is Larry's two-word review of the book:
Holy shit.

I concur.

Those who have studied the Harlem Renaissance know that Richard Wright was a passionate, angry man, the writer about whom other
Have you heard the name Trayvon Martin? If you have, good. If you haven’t, look him up. Open a tab, search up the name, T-R-A-Y-V-O-N etc, and read. Familiarize yourself with the exact definitions of the atrocity, the scope of the repercussions throughout the US, the up and currently running process of rectification that in a fair and just world would not be as excruciatingly slow and painful as it’s turning out to be. In a fair and just world, he would not be one of countless mown down for ever ...more
“These were the rhythms of his life: indifference and violence; periods of abstract brooding and periods of intense desire; moments of silence and moments of anger—like water ebbing and flowing from the tug of a far-away invisible force. Being this way was a need of his as deep as eating. He was like a strange plant blooming in the day and wilting at night; but the sun that made it bloom and the cold darkness that made it wilt were never seen. It was his own sun and darkness, a private and perso ...more
Esteban del Mal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ryan Lawson
Richard Wright's Native Son is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most powerful books that I have read, ever. This nightmarish story packs such an overwhelming amount of emotion and controversy that it is hard to pull away from much like the sight of a gruesome car crash on an interstate, you don't want to look but you must look. If you're looking for a competent, confident example of verisimilitude in literature then you need not look further.

Upon reading this piece, I wondered the entire
Feb 20, 2015 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Rowena
Maybe it's the inevitable melancholy of getting older, but reading this novel for the second time, roughly 13 years after the first go, has made me tremendously sad and despairing.

I would like to think the country is so much different 70 years after its publication, but is it?
Nathan Paul
While I realize some of the things that Wright is trying to say in this book, I could not bring myself to enjoy it at all. One of the main reasons was because I simply detested the main character, Bigger Thomas. The reason I disliked him so much was not because he is amoral; no, there are characters in books I like who are quite evil. The reason I disliked him is because he did things that were completely pointless and he was also not a very deep or interesting character. This book also dragged ...more
Even after thinking about this book for days, I still don’t know what to write. I think we’ve all learned about 1930s/1940s black America, but none of us have truly experienced it. We sympathize with the black people, we cheer on stories of people such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., and we are grateful that our world is not the same way today. Yet, how many of us have truly had to put ourselves in the shoes of those people? How many of us have really known what it’s like to be treated ...more
Richard Vialet
A challenging read. The easy route for the author Richard Wright would've been to write a novel asking us to sympathize with a black man wrongfully accused of murder in a racist community. But he does not take the easy route. Instead he implores the reader to follow Bigger Thomas, a young black man who is absolutely guilty of committing a deplorable act (for reasons which he himself cannot fully explain), and forces us to look at the circumstances which might have possibly created this complex m ...more
Native Son is a good novel with a compelling story about the racial division in America society. When I began reading the novel I contemplated that it was an hideous portrayal of African Americans; structuring them as murderers. However, upon reading the last book ,Fate, I began to understand Wright's gist on the racial biases. He uses Bigger to represent the predicament of all blacks during his time by exploring racism and its results on the oppressed. Bigger, the oppressed, does not see whites ...more
Jan 03, 2015 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Black men, white men, well-intentioned white girls, people who think America is post-racial
Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of Native Son, is a shiftless, bullying, vulgar young man who begins the book tormenting his poor mother, goes to a billiards club to plan a robbery with his equally ne'er-do-well friends, then he and one of his friends goes to a movie theater to masturbate in the seats.

He ends the book accused of the capital rape and murder of a white girl, whom he did murder (but did not in fact rape), but by his own words to his lawyer, makes clear that raping her was something
From time to time, a voice from the desert would call and awaken us and Native Son was and still is such a voice.

Bigger Thomas in a panic suffocated Mary Dalton and then burned her body to hide the crime and to avoid capture he smashed Bessie Mears with a brick and let her freeze to death. There is no question of the brutality of the crimes. An even Bigger, when in jail, believes he deserves to die for them.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog

But through the story of Bigger
Are you a White? Do you want to understand how it was for Blacks, particularly those who are poor, in the States, in the 30s and 40s and of course before that too? This book is set in Chicago. You read it to climb into the skin of a Black. It is not pleasant, but it is revealing. Do you dare?

The book description just does not get across the most important aspect of the book: you will be in Bigger's skin, and this is scary. As I noted below, for much of the book you will be sitting on the edge o
Fascinating. I finished this book minutes before Barack Obama gave his nomination acceptance speech. What a different world today than it was when Wright wrote it. That's not to say the creation of Bigger Thomas isn't still happening around the country today, but advancements have happened and are worth celebrating.

I'm not in love with Wright's writing style. I read Black Boy in college and felt like it suffered from the same problems: overly preachy and wordy, with long drawn out speeches and l
Mar 25, 2008 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers
Recommended to David by: Ms. DiRico
1993 by Harper Perennial
Title: Native Son
Author: Richard Wright 624 Page paperback
ISBN-14, 979-3-17-148411-6,
Native Son is a third person narrative that intimately revolves around an African American named Bigger Thomas in the 1930's. He lives in poverty with his family and is a delinquent. To aggravate his poor life even more, Bigger also lives in a racist society where white people despise black people.
One day, Bigger is admitted for a job, which is to be the chauffeur of the Dalton Family, a
Jason Pettus
(As of October 2013, my arts center is selling a first-edition, first-printing copy of Native Son through reseller website eBay. [See our entire collection of rare books at (] Below is what I wrote for the listing's description.)

Despite single-handedly starting the genre now known as "African-American Literature," the feisty Richard Wright had trouble his entire life with getting the proper recognition his work deserved, mostly because he had trouble even getting along
Here is the scariest character in literature. Even Wright is terrified of him. I've read a lot of protest books, a lot of warnings, but most authors give you a way out: "Look out, but here's what you should maybe try to do." With Bigger Thomas, Wright says, "Well, here's what you got." And...holy shit, man.

He's such a powerful force that Wright spends the entire last third of his own book basically saying "Holy shit!" Which is why this only gets four stars from me; that "Holy shit" part is much
I've been trying to figure out what to say, write, or do in response the continuing cases of violence against black men by police in this country, the whole time feeling that I lacked a language or a reference point. Once again, literature is my way in to at least trying to understand a complex and foreign issue to me and it came at just the right time.

That's basically me trying to fancy up saying: read this now if you haven't already.

Bigger Thomas is a marginalized, poor young black man (his
Andrew Howard
Native Son

The story Native Son written by Richard Wright has been banned, its success has been vandalized, and many people who enjoy the experience of taking life and converting it to ink have yet to flip through its pages because of the on going rumors that suffocate libraries and bookstores. Yet it still remains one of the greatest works of literature in its era. I enjoyed reading this book from cover to cover, but I must admit that when I first picked it up I had no interest in reading about
I had been wanting to read this book for some time and just got around to it recently while on maternity leave with my third baby. Throughtout my reading of this book I found myself really appreciating the complexity surrounding Bigger's judgement and consequent actions. It really made me think about the ways in which the world has changed since Native Son was written and the ways in which it has not. These themes apply to so many of our behaviours and it reinforces why we route for the underdog ...more
Yesenia Santos
Native Son is a novel that opens up the perspective of others who do not know what it feels like to be treated unequally. Bigger's environment shaped him to be the person he turned out to be because his society wasn't untied. Bigger acted tough to hide his fears from the world but when his feeling of freedom was captured, his future shattered. Bigger began to doubt his own thoughts because he was said to be scoundrel; Bigger's environment made him confront the conflicts of man vs. man, man vs. s ...more
Sentimental Surrealist
So am I the only one picking up on the strong existentialist bent here? I know it's The Outsider (which I have yet to read) that's usually pegged as Wright's existentialist novel, but let's not forget this. I mean, Camus fans should pick up on a few similarities between this and The Stranger immediately. Meursault and Bigger both feel distanced and disillusioned from those around them, both participate in an empty relationship for nothing but the sex, both commit a murder and form their own self ...more
Stephan Mosby-Williams
Apr 15, 2008 Stephan Mosby-Williams rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephan by: MR. ROMERO
I hated this book! It was not interesting and I could barely stay focused to the book while I was reading. That's what I thought of the book when I first started reading it. The book was funny at times and gruesome at others but over all the book was swell.
I didn't like the book because I wasn't interested in a boy killing a mouse or a boy scaring his little sister with a mouse. It just didn't appeal to me. I felt as though I wasn't the attended audience the book was written for.
I started to
Demisty Bellinger
I was always afraid to read this book because of the inevitable murder. I would get to the point of the pillow in Bigger's hands, then stop. But I'm so glad I read it. It was really relentless throughout. Really, my heart was racing. It was as brutal as I imagined, but it was a good brutality. Ahem.

I read Black Boy over and over and over again. I love Wright's writing. My only complaint about the book was the over-explanation offered the readers with Bigger's lawyer Max. It reminded me of the ov
I first read this book in high school.
I just re-read it for the first meeting of an occasional book club.

This time it was a little more poignant for a couple reasons. First, I now live in Chicago, so I can relate to some of the physical surrounds that Wright describes. Secondly, after going through college's social systems courses I understand the traps that society sets better.

Though I can't directly apply the plot of this book to my life, it is an interesting opening to a discussion on predes
This is an important book but, paradoxically, not great literature. Wright had a plenty to say about political and social conditions of blacks in the 1930s, but his vehicle - Bigger Thomas - never really came alive as an actual flesh-and-blood character. Instead, Bigger is mostly a symbol for Wright's ideas, never more so than during the final section of the book, where despite the fact that his earthly fate is being decided in court, his character all but disappears behind an unrealistic flood ...more
Anything I could say about this would take away from its greatness. Just read it.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
My first thought was that we haven't come very far in 75 years. I'm not saying we haven't made any progress as a society, but you could probably take the entire plot of Native Son and set it in the current era and not really have to change a thing. So many people still feel disillusioned and isolated in the same ways that Bigger expressed throughout the story. I don't intend to get into any kind of sociological debate here, but we have to do better - ALL of us have to do better.

The other though
Bigger Thomas, a young black man in 1930's Chicago, is a thug. A small-time thug, at the story's opening, but a thug all the same. Then he takes a job as a driver for the wealthy white Dalton family, and, as an indirect result, finds himself commiting unspeakable actions. From there, Bigger's story spirals rapidly into a waking nightmare with consequences more widespread than he could have ever imagined.

I could probably count on one hand the number of books I've read that were as compelling as
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Bigger's choices 1 16 Nov 11, 2014 04:08AM  
Class Struggle 4 37 Feb 15, 2013 09:56AM  
Native Son: modern day Oresteia? 2 30 Aug 26, 2012 05:49PM  
native son 7 75 Feb 24, 2012 07:17AM  
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Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of powerful, sometimes controversial novels, short stories and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerned racial themes. His work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
More about Richard Wright...
Black Boy Uncle Tom's Children The Outsider Eight Men: Short Stories Rite of Passage

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“Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.” 607 likes
“Violence is a personal necessity for the oppressed...It is not a strategy consciously devised. It is the deep, instinctive expression of a human being denied individuality.” 84 likes
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