by Richard Wright
Publication Date: Mar 01, 1940
List Price: $7.95
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Imprint: Harper Perennial
Parent Company: News Corporation
Arnold Rampersad (Introduction)
Widely acclaimed as one of the finest books ever written on race and class divisions in America, this powerful novel reflects the forces of poverty, injustice, and hopelessness that continue to shape out society.
From Sacred Fire
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