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Native Son | Study Guide

Richard Wright

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Check out this Infographic to learn more about Richard Wright's Native Son. Study visually with character maps, plot summaries, helpful context, and more.

native-son-richard-wrightSymbolsNative Sonby the NumbersCopies of Native Sonsold within threeweeks of publication 215,000Rank of Native Son on Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list20Wright was valedictorian of his junior high school class, although he never went on to complete high schoolYear the film versionwas released, starring Richard Wright himself as Bigger Thomas19511stBigger Thomas, Book 1hey do things and we cant. Its just like livin’ in jail.RICHARD WRIGHT1908–1960The grandson of slaves and sharecroppers, Wright was born in Mississippi. Despite his appetite for learning and reading, he never completed high school. Native Son, his second book, earned him international acclaim as a leading literary voice of black protest.AuthorBigger smashes a rat at the beginning of the novel but is himself caught like a rat in a trap and ultimately executed.RatMary’s mother’s blindness represents the blindness of white society to the humanity of others.BlindnessWhite snow thwarts Bigger’s plans for escape, just as white society thwarts his hopes for his life.SnowYoung WhiteCommunistsMAIN CHARACTERSBiggers WorldNative Son tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African American man struggling to find himself in 1930s Chicago. Trapped by poverty, racism, and social preconceptions, Bigger’s attempts to better his situation lead him to the electric chair—but also to self awareness.Henry DaltonWealthy white man, offers Bigger a job Bigger ThomasYoung African American man, murdererMary Dalton Daltons daughter, CommunistJan Erlone Marys boyfriend, CommunistBoris Max Biggers lawyer and friend Having experienced racism firsthand, Wright shows in Native Son how it blinds its perpetrators and traps its victims.Bigger and the people around him feel trapped. His mother seeks escape in religion; Bessie looks for it through alcohol.Though Bigger is guilty of murder, his trial is biased, and many injustices committed against poor African Americans in the novel continue unnoticed.EscapeRacismJusticeThemesBlack CommunityBessie MearsBiggers girlfriendWhite WealthyCommunityWANTEDFictionRichard Wright1940EnglishNovel AuthorYear PublishedOriginal LanguageNative Son

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