by Richard Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Native Son / 0-06-080977-9
This book should be read alongside Ellison's superb "Invisible Man". "Native Son" employs much the same idea - namely, that it is difficult to NOT become what others want to force you to become.
Bigger, the focus of this novel, is a good man. He's not the best, or the smartest, or the oldest, or the wisest, but he has a good heart. He wants to become a better person - he wants to BE 'bigger' in a real sense of personal growth. Not that he would think of it in these terms - Bigger is a simple man at heart.
When Bigger finds himself innocently trapped in a compromising position - a position that will be misunderstood, a position that will cause him to bear the worst of false accusations, a position that could cost his freedom and even his life - he tries his best to cover up the situation as best he possibly can. But he cannot protect himself from the stereotypes and prejudices that plague him and he becomes the very monster that everyone around him insisted on seeing in him. He is plagued by guilt, both for what he has done and for the damage he has done to others who look like him. And yet he cannot truly be blamed for this, because it is clear that those who hated him made sure, through systematic disenfranchisement, that he would fail eventually.
Whereas Ellison's invisible man was able to disappear completely, Wright's Bigger was not so lucky, yet both are equally victims.
~ Ana Mardoll
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