Presentation on theme: "Pages 140-208, week of march 21. Mary’s death represents key turning point in the plot, both in terms of the story and in terms of Bigger’s development."— Presentation transcript:
Mary’s death represents key turning point in the plot, both in terms of the story and in terms of Bigger’s development as a character. Book One, “Fear” Bigger unable to analyze his behavior In Book Two, “Flight,” he begins to actively consider his identity Beginning of novel -- Bigger resents line drawn between himself and white America. Doesn’t cross this line until he kills Mary by accident This threatens Bigger’s life ironically, gives him a real goal: to get away with the murder. Has sense of purpose he lacks prior to killing Mary. Analysis of pages 140- 163
Bigger deceives himself. Mary’s death = accident; he convinces himself it was deliberate action To Bigger, deliberate murder of a white woman represents the ultimate rebellion against the crushing authority of “whiteness.” Convinces self that he did it to challenge unfair social order he lives in. Feels that he now possesses a power that white America has used against him since his birth. Framing Jan is first step towards his new life. Through these actions, he claims equality with whites on his own terms, and feels that he has become more human because his life now holds purpose. Irony -- this life-affirming transformation occurs only after a brutal, irrational act of violence. Bigger’s self-deception
Just as he earlier hid behind his “wall” to endure fear and shame, now does same to avoid guilt. Attempts to blame Mary for bringing about own death. When he admits murder to Bessie, tries to convince self that the murder is justified because whites have killed many blacks in past. When Jan confronts him, Bigger overwhelmed by guilt -- nearly shoots Jan, falls into a daze before getting a grip. Bigger’s self-deception
Bigger plays the expected role of the humble, ignorant, subservient black boy. Begins to manipulate his identity to his advantage Daltons’ racism blinds them to Bigger’s role in Mary’s death Unable to imagine Bigger taking action beyond role that they assigned him as a black man. Bigger uses racial stereotypes as form of resistance and protection against white authority Bigger’s manipulation of others
Plays the role of the ignorant black servant to a tee, Bigger fools Mr. Dalton & Britten Carefully directs suspicion at Jan by manipulating the wealthy whites’ anticommunist and anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) prejudices Bigger likes chance to control the story for the whites, shaping their reality just as they have shaped it for him all of his life Bigger’s manipulation of others
Blindness of white characters again evident in this section We begin to see Bigger is largely blind as well. While Britten clearly stereotypes Bigger, Bigger also stereotypes Britten as merely one of thousands of white authority figures he has seen in his life. Blindness as motif
Bigger’s psychological damage result of constant flow of racist propaganda and racial oppression he faces. Movies -- whites = wealthy & sophisticated; blacks = jungle savages. He & family live in socially enforced poverty & have little opportunity for education. Bigger’s resulting attitude toward whites -- combination of powerful anger and powerful fear. Thinks of “whiteness” as overpowering and hostile force set against him in Effect of Racism on the Oppressed
Wright emphasizes the vicious double-edged effect of racism: though Bigger’s violence stems from racial hatred, it only increases the racism in American society, as it confirms racist whites’ basic fears about blacks. Effect of Racism on the Oppressed
Negative effect of racism extends to white -- prevents them from realizing groups they oppress are equally human. 1 of the strengths of Native Son is Wright’s ability to explore the psychology not only of oppressed but of the oppressors Wright illustrates racism is destructive to both groups, for different reasons. Many whites (Britten, Peggy)demonstrate unthinking sense of superiority that deceives them into seeing blacks as less than human. This sense of superiority is weakness The Effect of Racism on the Oppressor
Other white characters – esp. those with progressive attitude toward race -- affected by racism in subtler, more complex ways. Daltons: made a fortune out of exploiting blacks, Present themselves as philanthropists committed to the black American cause. Guilt? Unaware of their own racial prejudices? Mary and Jan: Represent even subtler form of racism Consciously seek to befriend blacks and treat them as equals, Fail to understand them as individuals. Failure has disastrous results. Assumethat Bigger will welcome their friendship He reacts w/suspicion and fear Failure to recognize Bigger’s individuality.
Wright’s portrayal of communism throughout Native Son one of the novel’s most controversial aspects. Wright still a member of the Communist Party when he wrote this novel Communism as Motif
Communism is a sociopolitical movement that aims for a classless and stateless society based upon getting rid of private ownership. Fear of Communism in early 20 th c. Communism was seen as rival and a threat to western democracies and capitalism for most of the 20 th c. Anti-communist propaganda films Anti-communist propaganda films What is Communism?