Social Sensitivity

Native Son depicts a world that is psychologically and physically brutal. Wright graphically portrays the emotional trauma that his black characters suffer because of white dominance, and he describes in gruesome detail the violence that accompanies Bigger’s anger. Bigger saws off Mary’s head; he smashes Bessie’s face with a brick; he contemplates rape; he has no guilt for retribution against whites, no sympathy for religion or kindness. He is, as many critics have noted, one of the most despicable protagonists in literature. But Wright’s defenders also note that the absence of morality provides a vehicle for looking at the raw reality of Bigger’s world-a world that, for a part of his life, was Wright’s own reality. In the tradition of naturalistic fiction, Native Son examines the cruelty of nature’s indifference, and the evil that occurs because of humankind’s intervention. In spite of its positive ending, in which the reader understands that Bigger can die fulfilled because he has found his identity, the novel will offend everyone, which is its purpose.