Fear In "Native Son" By Richard Wright

1468 words - 6 pages

In Richard Wright's "Native Son", emotions are a very important element, especially that of fear. Blacks are afraid of whites, whites are afraid of blacks, women are afraid of men, and everyone is afraid of communists. In the novel, however, no fear is as important as the fears that Bigger Thomas feels. If it weren't for fear, nothing would happen in the novel. Fear is a catalyst for Bigger that, without which, Bigger would be living the same life and nothing would change. Fear is the driving force behind many of Bigger Thomas's actions and decisions in the novel, and fear envelops his life. Among these fears are the fear of white people, and the fear of authority. Throughout the nov ...view middle of the document...

This view of the whites as a looming overlord helps to instill fear in blacks like Bigger. Not only is this fear of whites that of a fear of power, but it is also of the unknown. At this time in America, there never had been any integration, and different races simply stuck together. Black people stayed in the black neighborhoods, whites in the white neighborhoods, Indians on reservations, and the Chinese in Chinatown. Not to say that this grouping wasn't encouraged, or even enforced in some cases, but another aspect of this is simply that, as they say, 'birds of a feather flock together'. A fear of one of another race can be attributed to the survival mechanism of sticking to what you know, and people that are similar to you. People are wary of things they do not know or cannot understand, and find comfort in familiar things that they can identify with. And having the same race and background can even be the basis for some societies, because the people have a common link, and often the similar views and goals. Take the state of Israel, for example; a country founded on the basis of being Jewish, and really nothing else. That is just on a big scale what societies were on a small scale in the time of "Native Son". Jews live in Israel, and Bigger lives in the black neighborhood. This group mentality is one thing that leads to distrust and fear between the whites and blacks. They don't know each other, and they don't want to know each other.Bigger's fear of whites transcends into a general fear of authority and of facing that authority. This fear is a very important one in relation to the plot because it helps drive him to murder Mary and Bessie. When Mrs. Dalton walks into the room and Bigger is with Mary, he becomes terrified of getting caught and he 'silences' Mary so that Mrs. Dalton won't discover him. "He knew that if Mary spoke he would come to the side of the bed and discover him...he caught a corner of the pillow and brought it to her lips. He had to stop her from mumbling, or he would be caught." Bigger once again becomes deathly afraid of being caught when Bessie begins to panic and considers giving up. "'What's the use of running? They'll catch us anywhere.'" His fear of getting caught is so consuming that he kills without remorse and is not even human when he is in a panic. This fear makes him do anything and everything to get away. When he is being chased thought the city by a posse, he is maniacally running through buildings and opening fire recklessly at his hunters. At this point he seems even less afraid of death then he is of being caught. He is not subscribing to the 'you'll never take me alive' mantra because he is brave and full of pride, he is simply in a frenzy where the only thought in his head...


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