Societies Ladder

Earlier this semester I was required to read a fictional book called Native Son. I purchased the book from Amazon.

In this novel we are introduced to Bigger Thomas who is the main character. Bigger lives in the Black Belt, which is an area of Chicago largely inhibited by African-Americans. Even though he shares a sense of disenfranchisement with other members of his community he struggles to identify with them. He doesn’t feel like their quality of life is acceptable and he is constantly questioning why.

His query into propriety is a contradiction to the social norms and traditional thinking of the time (1940’s). This book characterizes a struggle of power and the majorities rule vs. the minorities’ rights.

Instead of having a government that depends on the people, the people are dependent on the government. They (African-Americans) rely on entertainment to gain enlightenment about their society through movies. They truly believe that what they watch is an accurate representation. ‘You reckon folks really act like that? Bigger asked… Sure, man. They rich, Jack said.’

Movies are composed and disseminated in a fashion that paints African-Americans as brainless jungle dwellers, and Whites as intelligent, wealthy, powerful, aristocrats. ‘Two features were advertised: The Gay Women, was pictured on the posters in images of white men and white women lolling on beaches, swimming, and dancing in night clubs: the other, Trader Horn, was shown on the posters in terms of black men  and black women dancing against a wild  background of barbaric jungle.’ This can be seen as governmental propaganda.

 The amazing aspect to me of this story was that Richard Wright constructed a protagonist with major flaws. These flaws are also stereotypes that have been exaggerated. He then uses these flaws and a series of bad decisions to show the ills of society. What is impressive is how this book is still relevant to our society today because we are less than four years removed from “Jena 6.” This book has caused me to think about the political implications and statements of our mediums of story telling.


About John Barr

Double Major Student @ Towson University
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