Racism in Native Son
There are a lot of different themes that are in the novel Native Son. Many of them talk about things in history, or things which are still around today but not as much or are viewed differently. One of the biggest themes in the novel is racism, and it is especially important in the section of the book titled “Fate.” In this part Bigger Thomas, the African-American main character who is accused of murder, is on trial for his life. It is really clear in the trial and in how the different characters are interviewed that there is a lot of racism in America at this point in history. It can really be seen that African-Americans were oppressed by a lot of people and in a lot of different ways.
The two biggest ways that racism is in the trial questioning is when Jan Erlone and Henry Dalton are being interviewed. Jan Erlone is a communist and a man who treated Bigger Thomas like a human being earlier in the book. Here the questions he is asked show what most people think about African-Americans in this time period. For instance, the coroner repeatedly suggests that when Jan left the dead Ms Dalton alone with Bigger, he thought she would have “sex relations with a Negro” (324). More than this he says that “that drunken Negro” went too far and that it is not a surprise that he went “so far as to rape and kill the girl” (325). This shows us that the theme of racism is there even when the character talking does not have racist feelings.
When Henry Dalton is being questioned he is asked about his business which is real estate. Bigger’s lawyer who is sympathetic to him asks the questions so they put a new light on how people at the time thought about African-Americans. For instance, the lawyer keeps asking about why house prices where the African-American people live are so much higher. Mr. Dalton just says it is because of “supply and demand” (326), but when the lawyer asks why he refuses to sell the houses in cheaper parts of the city to the African-Americans he says it is “an old custom” (327) and that he didn’t “think they’d like to live any place else” (327). Even though Mr. Dalton does charity work, his shallow thinking about African-Americans show that he too is racist and that his charity might just be a way of making himself less guilty feeling.
Even in this very short part of the book that is the trial the characters views on race are clearly racist. The whole book is like that, and the reason Bigger meets with the result that he does can be put down to racist behavior on the part of most of the people living at the time period. It is good to think this racism might not be here today but the truth in this case might not be entirely true since people often get emotional at murder trials and do not always think straight. However it is certainly true that racism was much more widespread in the time period here, as shown by the trial section of Native Son.
Wright, Richard. Native Son. New York: Perennial Classics, 1998. Print.