Native Son (Wright)

Book Reviews 
The story is a strong and powerful one and it alone will force the Negro issue to our attention. Certainly, Native Son declares Richard Wright's importance, not merely as the best Negro writer, but as an American author as distinctive as any of those now writing.
Peter Monro Jack - The New York Times Book Review (1940)


This new edition gives us a Native Son in which the key line in the key scene is restored to the great good fortune of American letters. The scene as we now have it is central both to an ongoing conversation among African-American writers and critics and to the consciousness among all American readers of what it means to live in a multi-racial society in which power splits along racial lines.
Jack Miles - Los Angeles Times


Richard Wright was born in 1908, thc first of two sons of a sharecropper. After publishing his first novel, Uncle Tom's Children, in 1938, Wright discovered to his alarm that "he had written a book which even bankers" daughters could read and feel good about. He swore that his next novel would be different. That book was Native Son, the story of Bigger Thomas's short and tragic life, which plumbs the blackest depths of human experience.

Native Son is told in three parts—Fear, Flight, and Fate—which sum up, perfectly, Bigger Thomas's life. Badly in need of a job to help support his family, the ne'er-do-well Bigger goes to work as a driver for the Daltons, a rich white family. As he is pulled every which way by his mother, who wanted him to do the things she wanted him to do; by Mrs. Dalton, who wanted him to do the things she felt that he should have wanted to do; by Mary Dalton, the young mistress of the house, who challenged him to stand up for things he didn't understand; and by his need for independence and autonomy in the midst of a dependent situation—he missteps, accidentally killing Mary.

Native Son is not an uplifting book with a happy Hollywood resolution. It has been criticized for its cardboard portrayal of black pathology and heavy-handed Marxist message. But the book is an absolutely gripping potboiler that is also intellectually provocative. It is on one level a seedy, simple story of an unsympathetic character meeting his fate at his own hands, and on another an illuminating drama of an individual consciousness that challenges traditional definitions of heroism, character, and integrity. Bigger was less a character caught in a specific criminal activity than he was a crime waiting to happen.
Sacred Fire 

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