Study Guide

Native Son Shame

By Richard Wright

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Next to fear, shame is the emotion that the protagonist of Native Son feels most frequently. Shame is associated with his family’s poverty, the color of his skin, his own powerlessness, and the powerlessness of his family and friends. Like fear, shame leads the protagonist to feel rage, and this anger makes him want to kill others.

Questions About Shame

  1. Which characters feel shame and why? What does shame cause them to do?
  2. How is shame related to violence, rage, and fear?
  3. Is shame different from guilt? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Even though Bigger feels shame, he feels it about things over which he has no power: his family’s poverty, the squalor of their living conditions, the color of his skin, how white people treat him.

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