African American Literature
Native Son and Invisible Man Essay
The novels Native Son by Richard Wright and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison are stories about young black men in a search for their self-identities. Self-identity is when one recognizes his or her potentials as an individual and the acceptance that they are their own unique person. Self-identity is something everyone comes across at a point in his or her life and the realization of this varies from person to person. These two young men endured two very different journeys in which they were able to discover their true selves.
Bigger Thomas is the protagonist in Native Son who takes an interesting course to his self-identification. He is a black male in a time period where whites discriminated against blacks and both races were uneducated about each other. As a result of these races being a mystery to each other it instilled a lot of fear into the black community because they did not know what to expect from whites. Bigger, as well as all blacks were seen as a product of their environment because blacks did not have equal opportunities as whites and were expected to fail in all aspects. For example, whites thought so little of blacks that they assumed and expected blacks to end up in jail. Considering this, Bigger is put in a situation where in his mind he is forced to murder Mary Dalton. Although murdering Mary Dalton was unintentional, he was fearful of being caught in a room with a drunken white girl because of the fact that society would deem this as rape. To avoid being caught by Mrs. Dalton Bigger was forced to keep her quiet and inadvertently suffocated and killed her. If society did not see this as a wrongdoing and would have not falsely accused him of rape Mary Dalton would still be alive. Bigger shows that he is a product of his environment and is so scared of being wrongly accused of a crime that he feels he has to commit a crime. Bigger is an example of a stereotypical black male through out this novel because of the fear he feels as a result of society and the fear of what could happen to him. Due to this murder, his future is based on doing everything possible to avoid being caught, which leads him to act the way whites would expect him to, an animal. Through this struggle of trying to keep the murder a secret he finds himself murdering again this time his girlfriend, Bessie Mears. In his mind he has to kill Bessie because she knows too much about the murder and cannot risk her disclosing his secret. As Bigger commits all these crimes he starts to really question himself and his actions. With every felony he commits he is a step closer to discovering who he actually is.
Bigger’s actions and experiences through the course of the novel change him and open him up to the idea of free will. In the beginning of the novel he acts on instinct and as a result of this he is an illustration of the idea of naturalism. He presents himself as a naturalistic character because he does not apply reasoning to his thoughts and he is portrayed as being a victim of his destiny. An example of this is when he brings a gun to his first day of work at the Dalton’s. He is so fearful of white people that he brings a gun into their home without contemplating what consequences could result from it. As the novel progresses you see Bigger acting more on reason than instinct such as when he murders Bessie. The murder of Bessie is one of the first times Bigger thinks for himself, acting on his thoughts with the intentions of having a specific outcome. This killing was to make sure his secret stayed a secret; he premeditated the entire act and in his mind had good reasoning for it. He discovers his self-identity through committing these acts because these acts force him to be a conscious independent thinker. These acts demand that he think for himself in order to save himself from being caught and jailed. Despite his efforts to