Native Son: What does Bigger Thomas want?

Native Son by Richard Wright
I. Grammar Stage Inquiry

Continuation from Native Son: On My Soapbox

Part of The Well-Educated Mind project includes answering questions.  Here are a few of them, and next week I will have the rest.

Who is the central character in this book? Bigger Thomas

What is the book’s most important event? This is the event in which the main character changes the most.   

The most important event is when Max, Bigger’s lawyer, speaks to Bigger in jail preparing his defense, and Max asks him numerous personal questions about his life; those questions cause Bigger to feel like his life has worth.  For the first time, he has hope and feels equal to other men.  He once thought everyone else was blind, but now he wonders if he was the one who had been blind all along.  Suddenly, he doesn’t want to die.

II. Logic Stage Inquiry

What does the central character want?

Bigger wants a lot of things throughout the story:
1. Bigger wants to be treated like a man.
2. He wants “to be free...” from a lot of things.
3. He wants to know the truth if there was “some (similar) battle everybody was fighting”; 
“…did everybody in the world feel alike?”
4. He wants to tell others how he feels, how he lives, and about his life.
5. He wants “to merge himself with others and be a part of this world, to lose himself in it so he could find himself, to be allowed a chance to live like others, even though he was black.”

What is standing in his way, and what strategies does he use to get what he wants? 

Hate and fear are standing in Bigger’s way.  Hate is what causes men to fear, which causes them to do things that they really don’t want to do, but feel like they just have to do it to protect themselves.  Hate and fear are what blind men.  Bigger must make a decision to either keep hope alive in order to die free or to return to his shell and hide behind his fear and hate. 

Finally, Bigger opens up, after his sentence, and freely talks about his life to Max as he comes to terms with his truth about why he committed murder; now he feels he is no longer burdened by hate or fear.  He is finally free.

Coming up next week: Rhetoric Stage Inquiry

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