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Native Son Mass Market Paperback – Import, 1 January 1900

4.6 out of 5 stars 1,233 ratings

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Bigger Thomas is doomed, trapped in a downward spiral that will lead to arrest, prison, or death, driven by despair, frustration, poverty, and incomprehension. As a young black man in the Chicago of the '30s, he has no way out of the walls of poverty and racism that surround him, and after he murders a young white woman in a moment of panic, these walls begin to close in. There is no help for him--not from his hapless family; not from liberal do-gooders or from his well-meaning yet naive friend Jan; certainly not from the police, prosecutors, or judges. Bigger is debased, aggressive, dangerous, and a violent criminal. As such, he has no claim upon our compassion or sympathy. And yet...

A more compelling story than Native Son has not been written in the 20th century by an American writer. That is not to say that Richard Wright created a novel free of flaws, but that he wrote the first novel that successfully told the most painful and unvarnished truth about American social and class relations. As Irving Howe asserted in 1963, "The day Native Son appeared, American culture was changed forever. It made impossible a repetition of the old lies [and] brought out into the open, as no one ever had before, the hatred, fear and violence that have crippled and may yet destroy our culture."

Other books had focused on the experience of growing up black in America--including Wright's own highly successful Uncle Tom's Children, a collection of five stories that focused on the victimization of blacks who transgressed the code of racial segregation. But they suffered from what he saw as a kind of lyrical idealism, setting up sympathetic black characters in oppressive situations and evoking the reader's pity. In Native Son, Wright was aiming at something more. In Bigger, he created a character so damaged by racism and poverty, with dreams so perverted, and with human sensibilities so eroded, that he has no claim on the reader's compassion:

"I didn't want to kill," Bigger shouted. "But what I killed for, I am! It must've been pretty deep in me to make me kill! I must have felt it awful hard to murder.... What I killed for must've been good!" Bigger's voice was full of frenzied anguish. "It must have been good! When a man kills, it's for something... I didn't know I was really alive in this world until I felt things hard enough to kill for 'em. It's the truth..."
Wright's genius was that, in preventing us from feeling pity for Bigger, he forced us to confront the hopelessness, misery, and injustice of the society that gave birth to him. --Andrew Himes

Review

"Native Son taught me that it's all right to have passion within your work" -- Gloria Naylor

Novel by Richard Wright, published in 1940. The novel addresses the issue of white American society's responsibility for the repression of blacks. The plot charts the decline of Bigger Thomas, a young African-American imprisoned for two murders--the accidental smothering of his white employer's daughter and the deliberate killing of his girlfriend to silence her. In his cell Thomas confronts his growing sense of injustice and concludes that violence is the only alternative to submission to white society. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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Product details

  • Publisher : HarpPeren; Abridged edition (1 January 1900)
  • Language : English
  • Mass Market Paperback : 432 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0060809779
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0060809775
  • Item Weight : 227 g
  • Dimensions : 2.54 x 10.8 x 17.78 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 1,233 ratings

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
1,233 global ratings
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Top review from India

Reviewed in India on 17 September 2019
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2.0 out of 5 stars Too costly
By Lalit Kumar on 17 September 2019
I got this book at Rs. 786. But the label on book mentions that MRP is 499.
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nigel bowles
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant but slightly difficult read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 2 May 2018
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5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly breathtaking
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 July 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very good but emotionally harrowing read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 July 2017
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 January 2019
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 March 2021
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