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Banned Book Review: Native Son

March 2, 2006

71. Native Son by Richard Wright

Reason: vulgar, profane, and sexually explicit

Bigger Thomas is broken.  He is a young black man growing up in a society which oppresses young black men and demands that they rise above their poverty and oppression, all while holding them back from doing so.  Bigger discovers the way to break his bonds only after accidentally killing his employer’s daughter.

Wright voices something that until Native Son‘s publication in 1940 had remained largely unspoken.  That blacks were not happy simply to serve, and that there is something inherently wrong with the belief that blacks are lesser than whites.  Wright not only puts a face on a young black criminal, but gives him a spirit, a motivation, a history which lead up to his actions.  Wright then uses the voice of a white man to speak convincingly of the crimes, not only of the young man, but also of those committed on the young man by society.

I have to admit, it was sometimes dull.  It felt very much like the sort of book English majors are given to read because It Is Important. The last third of the book had my mental wheels turning over whether the lengthy diatribe by Bigger’s defense lawyer could honestly have been processed by a jury.  Not because they couldn’t handle the truths therein, but because after listening to someone go on for that long, they probably got bored.  But it made a lot of good points about the life of a young black man in the 30s and his motivations, and was worth slogging through.

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