The story begins as Bigger, a black man living in the south of Detroit, wakes up to find a rat in the small, cramped, apartment him and his family live in. The reader is instantly assaulted with tales of how hard the life of the average black man in south Detroit is, and how little choices they have. After the initial barrage of stereotypical descriptions, the story launches into Bigger’s day, where he sets off to start a job as Mr. Dalton, a stereotypical white man’s chauffeur. Bigger’s first task is to take the young daughter, Mary, to university. Instead she directs him to pick up her boyfriend Jan, a communist. After driving the two around to bars and getting progressively drunk, Bigger has to take the girl upstairs to her room, because she is to inebriated to walk. As he lays her into bed, she begins to kiss him, and he gets obviously aroused. During the passionate kissing, Mary’s blind mother walks in, and afraid that Mary will give his presence away, Bigger muffles her with the pillow, accidently killing her. The mother leaves without noticing anything wrong. In a mixture of fear, and determination, Bigger chops off Mary’s head and places her in the Dalton’s heater, incinerating the body. During the investigations of her disappearance, Bigger aims his stories towards Jan, framing him for the murder. However, the remains of the body are found and Bigger is forced to flee. He initially finds his girlfriend Bessie, and after some convincing, the two flee together. Once they are alone, Bigger rapes Bessie, and after she falls asleep, kills her with a break, and then dumps the body in an air vent inside the warehouse they had sought shelter in. The town initiates a massive mob-style manhunt, and in the end, Bigger is cornered by the police and arrested. Jan visits bigger in jail and agrees to get his lawyer friend, Mr. Max, a communist lawyer, on the case. While Max works to defend Bigger, on the grounds that the black society breed’s people like Bigger who have no chance, the trial does not go their way, and Bigger is sentenced to death. At the end of the story Bigger refers to Mr. Jan, as an equal for the first time, as he awaits his deaths.
Bigger Thomas – Bigger Thomas is the protagonist of the novel, Native Son. He is a black man growing up in the south of Detroit, who has had a rough life. From the beginning of the story it explains how all black people, both men and women, suffer troubling times in the south of Detroit. It tells about how people like Bigger led lives where they were not able to make much money, and were also forced to pay incredibly large rent fees, because of the combating monopoly the whites had imposed. The blacks were not able to move into “white suburbs” and where therefore forced into the costly all-black apartment buildings. It also tells of how the Black people led lives of little choice, and were bred to be the outcast of society. Bigger often makes brash decisions
Mary Dalton – Mary is the daughter of Mr. and Ms. Dalton. She defines herself as a “progressive, free thinker, who doesn’t adhere to racial stereotypes.” She works hard to befriend Bigger, in order to prove to him that she doesn’t not believe in racial differences, like the rest of the stereotypical white bigots she grew up with. A further representation of this is her relationship with Jan, a communist immigrant, how many of the white men frown upon, including her own parents. However, this self-defined relationship with Bigger, results in her death, at the hands of Bigger. Her murder did little to show for the things she believed in, and reassured the whites of her community that the blacks were dangerous people, and could not be trusted. Bigger let her into his life while he was inebriated, and told her all about the things he had suffered as a black child, something he had never done with anyone before.
The novel Native Son takes place in south Detroit, during incredibly racist times. The beginning of the story is set in Bigger’s dirty family apartment, which is crammed full of his family members, and all of their things. To emphasize the harshness of the conditions, the story starts with a rat scurrying around the apartment. As the story progresses we get a better idea of how dirty the city is, and how the entire city resembles a large ghetto that the black people are forced to live in. The white entrepreneurs have established a monopoly on the buildings across town, and have banned the blacks from living in “white-majority suburbs” forcing them to pack into the small apartments, and pay the incredibly high rent. Once Bigger gets a job with white people, we learn of the living conditions the whites enjoy. They are happily situated in clean towns and houses, that triple or quadruple the square feet of the black apartments, but contain a third of the people. Specifically the Dalton’s house is incredibly well furnished, and both awes and angers Bigger, who believes the black people also deserve to live in the white houses. As Bigger drives Mary and Jan around, we learn that the whites enjoy much finer and cleaner establishments, ranging from restaurants to bars. The novel paints a well-crafted portrait of the stereotypical black oppression.
The novel A Native Son contains mainly Man vs. Man, and Man vs. Society. Man vs. man is seen in the multiple murders Bigger commits. Man vs. society is seen the blacks oppression, and the harsh conditions the whites inflict on them.
Three major themes in the novel A Native Son include oppression, flight, and fear. Oppression is seen in the control the whites have over the blacks. The whites are able to control where they live, what they do, where they go, and their quality of life. Flight is seen in the period of time that Bigger runs from the police. Especially after he rapes and murders his girlfriend Bessie, and is on the run from a massive mob-style manhunt. Fear is seen often throughout the novel, especially shown by Bigger. Bigger is constantly afraid of the whites, and thinks of them as one imposing force.
Three symbols in the novel A Native Son include the car, the pillow, and the rat. The car Bigger drives represents the blacks servitude to the whites, and how many blacks have to follow the white mans whims just to survive. The pillow represents Bigger’s mistakes, and the crimes he will commit. The rat in Bigger’s apartment represents the conditions of the blacks, and the harshness that they live in.