Whitney's Reviews > Native Son

Native Son by Richard Wright
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Mar 19, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, classic
Read from March 14 to 19, 2014

If you look objectively at what Bigger Thomas did, it is hard to sympathize with him as a protagonist. He acted in the manner of a psychopath. He killed, actively tried to cover his crime, blamed an innocent man, and tried to profit from the murder after the fact. I was horrified. I didn't like him. Jan and Mary were trying to be his friends and he wouldn't allow them. He hated them for it. But in the end, you realize that he couldn't have acted any other way. 1940 Chicago, IL, USA would not have allowed him to act any other way than exactly has he did.

This book made me wish that I had been closer to my great-grandfather. He was alive in Chicago at this time. He died when I was 13 or so. I wasn't old enough to understand anything of the themes of this book. I would have asked him what it was like. I would have asked him about jazz.

I'm from a generation that takes civil rights for granted, yet there are people still alive who attended lynchings. We deal with the same things now in a different form. Look up Oscar Grant. Why did he die? Why did Trayvon Martin die? The press in the book reminded me much of the press covering that young man's killing. What would have been considered "mob justice" in the time of Bigger Thomas is now called "the court of public opinion".

Four stars because it gets a little too didactic for my taste. Through the character of Max, Wright points out what is more obvious now than it was then: It's not even really about black and white. It's about rich and poor. The rich happen to be white. They use a divide and conquer strategy among the common man. They let the ones that happen to look like them think that they can have a piece of the pie too if they just make sure others don't try to take it from them. In reality if we all realized we are in the same boat, the capitalists wouldn't stand a chance.
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