Wright’s Native Son: The modernist African- American novel and its meaning today

stewi87 By stewi87, 21st May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Dramatic Fiction

In this article I try to review the importance of Richard Wright's Native Son for readers today. Its special achievements for African American Literature makes it a must- read novel for anyone interested in the topic.

The creation of Native Son

Richard Wright’s Native Son appeared in 1940. It was a time when the Nazis were still in power in Germany, and communism was still popular as an alternative state form for intellectuals in the United States. Furthermore, African- Americans still suffered under Jim Crow segregation; particularly in the cities, where they were zoned out to the suburbs. Richard Wright was a black communist intellectual. He was a communist, because he believed in the equality of all people. As an intellectual from Chicago he saw that his fellow African Americans were suffering under segregation and that is why he wrote Native Son.

Brutality, Sex and Crime

Native Son shows the violence with which black Americans have been oppressed in all its brutality. The main character Bigger Thomas represents all the fears white Americans have, because they feel that their dominance over the black population is going to produce something bad they cannot control. This monster they fear is Bigger Thomas. He rapes, murders, and has a deprived character, because his identity is deprived by his environment. Bigger is a young man without future, living in a Chicago ghetto. He would have had dreams, but all of them were denied by “white folks”. Because of this hopelessness of his life, he feels that he cannot control himself, and therefore is like a bomb ready to explode every second. This hopelessness prevails even until the end of the book, because Richard Wright wanted no Happy Ending; he wanted to shock the readers of his time. In order to do this, he wrote his narrative as a naturalist and modernist novel.


Today this style of narration is not en vogue anymore. But still Native Son remains an important novel, because it was the first novel by a black author that appeared on a best-seller list. But it not only showed that African American writers are able to produce culture, it also made it impossible for future authors to deny the miserable social conditions African Americans had to live under. Therefore, it is still worth reading Native Son today in order to understand the roots of black resistance.


1940S, African American, Chicago, Communism, Modernism, Native Son, Review, Stefan Willa

Meet the author

author avatar stewi87
I have a degree in English languages and literatures, and I absolutely love reading and reviewing books.

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