Everything Bigger does in Native Son has a relationship to the color of his skin. Why? Because whites control the labor, legal, religious, educational, and social institutions that dictate where and how the protagonist, a black man, can live, where he can work or go to school, and what he can or cannot do with his life. The protagonist feels like whites live in the pit of his stomach, because his stomach is where he feels fear, shame, hopelessness – and whites are the ones who control these emotions since they control his life.
Questions About Race
- Native Son suggests several things contribute to ongoing racial tension. What are those factors and how do they contribute?
- What do whites know and what do they not know about black culture and lifestyle in this novel?
- How do Bigger and Gus show their ignorance of white culture and lifestyle in the early part of the book? What assumptions do they have about whites and what does that reveal about their own lives?
- What surprises Bigger about the life and culture of whites when he actually starts his job at the Daltons?
- Which characters in this novel do you consider to be racist? Why?
Chew on This
Although black and white characters in this book live very different lives, deep down, all of the characters are alike in feelings and reactions.