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 the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.
Native Son revolves around a 19-year-old African American man named Bigger Thomas, who lives with his family in a one-bedroom apartment in the south side of Chicago in the 1930s. As the novel begins, Bigger is pressured by his mother to obtain a job to help financially support the family. The Daltons, a friendly, wealthy Caucasian family, decide to hire Bigger as a paid employee. His first responsibility is to chauffeur around the daughter, Mary Dalton, to her university. She forces Bigger to make a detour to pick up her boyfriend, Jan Erlone, who is a communist. When the pair return home, Mary is completely intoxicated after drinking with Jan. But by the end of the night, Bigger has accidentally murdered Mary Dalton by smothering her to death and puts her corpse in the home furnace, decapitating her in the process.
The entire novel was centered around the superficial fact that Bigger’s skin color determined everything in his life and future. Wright capitalized on the ways in which white’s supremacy over blacks had a negative effect on them and their behavioral tendencies. In Bigger’s case, because he was treated with suspicion and mistrust all his life, he ultimately ended up morphing into the character who fit the stereotype.
The mood of the novel was very sympathetic because Wright portrays Bigger as a victim of society. Although he violently murdered two women, the author attempts to force the reader to understand the situation from Bigger’s perspective, seeing that it is the only way he knew how to react.
I thought the novel was pretty good, despite the fact that I refused to feel any sympathy towards Bigger or his actions. Most of the scenes (even the murder scenes, which were gruesomely realistic and descriptive) had meaning and kept my interest. Therefore, although I liked the novel, I did not like Bigger.