From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Native Son

Native Son


by Richard Wright

Native Son Theme of Fear

Fear is the dominant emotion that the novel’s protagonist Bigger feels. Fear results from the lack of power to control one’s own situation. The protagonist  of Native Son is especially fearful of white people and the power they wield over him—ordinary white people, wealthy white people, white people who control the legal and justice system.

As the novel progresses, we realize that Bigger’s fear is symbolic of similar fear felt by much of black society. Fear also leads to terrible and unintended consequences; the protagonist’s fear leads him to hurt his friends and even murder two women.

Questions About Fear

  1. Which characters feel fear and why do they feel it?
  2. What does fear motivate each character to do?
  3. To what extent is fear a factor in racial tensions? To what extent are other emotions a factor in racial tensions?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Fear is the motivating factor for Bigger Thomas’s crimes.

Fear always leads to negative consequences in Native Son.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...