Tag Archives: Native Son

It used to be…

Invisible Man Chapter 7

Kicked out of college, our narrator climbs on a bus headed north.  A travel companion turns out to be the doctor veteran from The Golden Day.  It’s this institutionalized man whose words connect the literary dots between Invisible Man and another classic novel.

Connecting the Literary Dots

“Yes, I know,” the vet said, “but think of what this means for the young fellow.  He’s going free, in the broad daylight and alone.  I can remember when young fellows like him had first to commit a crime, or be accused of one, before they tried such a thing.  Instead of leaving in the light of morning, they went in the dark of night.”

Native Son, anyone?

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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Invisible Man


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A Confidant

Book III chapter ii

O’Brien is taking his time torturing Winston.  He’s using the special machine with the dial to reteach Winston the proper way to think: doublethink.  In the midst of unspeakable pain, Winston is finally able to say all the things he’s always wanted to.  He talks about the war and its ever-changing enemy.  He talks about his diary.  He talks about the newspaper photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford.

O’Brien is determined.  He will teach Winston that 2+ 2=5.

The torture continues until finally Winston can’t even answer the simple math question.  He receives pain medicine.

He opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O’Brien.  At sight of the heavy, lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart seemed to turn over.  If he could have moved he would have stretched out a hand and laid it on O’Brien’s arm.  He had never loved him so deeply as at this moment, and not merely because he had stopped the pain.  The old feeling, that at the bottom it did not matter whether O’Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back..  O’Brien was a person who could be talked to.

“O’Brien was a person who could be talked to.”

In the margin of my book I wrote, “like Bigger with Max”.

Certainly Max isn’t like O’Brien.  Native Son ‘s Jewish lawyer really did want to help his client Bigger Thomas, but Winston and Bigger have experienced the same kind of isolation.  Both men were alone with their thoughts… always.  It was never safe for them to share ideas… with anyone.

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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in 1984


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Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something that you had a right to.

The quote is from 1984 Book I chapter V.

Raise your hand if you can imagine Bigger Thomas saying those same words in Native Son.

Me too.

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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in 1984


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Which title?

I have a multiple choice question for you this morning.  Can you figure out from which novel the following quote comes?

He said the truth was that I didn’t have a soul and that nothing human, not one of the moral principles that govern men’s hearts, was within my reach.  “Of course,” he added, “we cannot blame him for this.  We cannot complain that he lacks what it was not in his power to acquire.”


Does the quote come from…

A. Native Son
B. The Stranger
C. The Stranger… but, boy, did it remind me of Native Son.


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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in The Stranger


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Goodbye, Native Son

Native Son

The three of us at “A Classic Case of Madness” have finished Native Son.  We wrapped up over frozen yogurt, using hushed voices.  Native Son is not rated “G”, and we didn’t want to cause difficulties for the young families at the yogurt shop.  “Mommy, did you hear those ladies talking about stuffing someone in a furnace?”

If you have finished Wright’s work, you may…

1.  Take a break and read something a little lighter like the newspaper.  Oh, wait.  Maybe not.
2. Snag a copy of this movie version and let us know what you think. Oprah plays Mrs. Thomas, and Elizabeth McGovern of Downton Abbey fame is Mary Dalton.
3. Take the Sparknotes’ quiz.  Is number nineteen correct?
4. Search for our next book: Camus’ The Stranger.

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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Native Son



No hope

Book III

Bigger Thomas has been sentences to death.
He sends Max away.

He felt Max’s hand on his arm; then it left.  He heard the steel door clang shut and he knew that he was alone.  He did not stir; he lay still, feeling that by being still he would stave off feeling and thinking, and that was what he wanted above all right now.  Slowly, his body relaxed.  In the darkness and silence he turned over on his back and crossed his hands upon his chest.  His lips moved in a whimper of despair. (Perennial Library Copy pg. 379)

Not feeling.
Not thinking.
On his back.
Arms crossed.
Is Bigger preparing himself for the coffin?

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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Native Son


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Another want

Book IIINative Son

Wright’s been kind and told us what his main character wants.  Here’s another instance:

Over and over he had tried to create a world to live in, and over and over he had failed.

Bigger wants a world to live in.

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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Native Son


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Where’s Bessie?

If Wright’s word-picture of Bessie’s murder wasn’t graphic enough, in Book III, Detective Buckley brings her mangled body back into the story.  We learn that she wasn’t dead when Bigger tossed her down the airshaft; she froze to death trying to escape.


It isn’t just Buckley that brings Bessie back into the story.  The prosecution actually put her body on display in the courtroom as evidence.  It’s almost unbelievable that this would happen.  Can you imagine a corpse labeled “exhibit A”?


They were bringing Bessie’s body in now to make the white men and women feel that nothing short of a quick blotting out of his life would make the city safe again.  They were using his having killed Bessie to kill him for his having killed Mary, to cast him in a light that would sanction any action taken to destroy him.

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Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Native Son


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Like in the Movies

Does the end of Book II scream “Made for the Big Screen!” to you?  Native Son movie

Bigger hearing the sirens and making his way to the roof top…

Bigger telling himself he wants to die without shame…

Bigger belting the man’s head with the barrel of his gun…

Bigger running across rooftops and climbing the water tank…

Bigger tossing the tear gas canister off the tank…

Bigger knocked off the water tank by the force of the fire house.

Bigger being dragged down the stairs…

Bigger passing out…

The last pages of the novel are just right for an action-packed movie sequence.

Have any of you watched a cinematic retelling of Wright’s story?

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Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Native Son


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Book IINative Son

It’s always nice when a classic author gives us the answers to few wrap-up questions.

“What does the central character want?”  (WEM pg. 73)

He did not want to sit on a bench and sing, or lie in a corner and sleep.  It was when he read the newspapers or magazines, went to the movies, or walked along the streets with crowds, that he felt what he wanted: 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?

… he was black.

And what strategy does he pursue in order to overcome this block?

He had committed murder twice and had created a new world for himself.

The Native Son quotes come from page 227 of my Perennial Library copy.


Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Native Son


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