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Native Son

de Richard Wright

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6,582821,081 (3.94)303
Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright's novel is just as powerful today as when it was written -- in its reflection of poverty and hopelessness, and what it means to be black in America.… (més)
1940s (16)
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This novel tells a powerful and unsparing tale of a young Black man who, in the grips of hopelessness, poverty, and panic, kills a young white woman. Wright highlights how main character Bigger Thomas, like many other Black men, had the odds of jail time stacked against him from the start. “This novel transformed my perspective more than any other novel I've read,” Fierro says, “shattering the ignorant preconceptions I had about race and class, and rearranging my perspective so I had the beginning of a new understanding of the immense challenges people of color experience.”
  stlukeschurch | Mar 9, 2021 |
Historically, this work was written before the Civil Rights era (1940) and shed light on the terrible social circumstances that pervaded African-American life in the North. Set in Chicago shortly after the Great Migration, it portrays what we now would characterize as systemic racism – the realities of a dysfunctional society. A black everyman has his life cast away by a lack of opportunity to make his life count for something. It can remind today’s readers of the progress that has been made and the progress which still must be made.

In this tale, Bigger Thomas at first seems headed to jail for only petty theft; then soon, he is in trouble for murder. Ironically, committing murder for Thomas was the most enlivening act of his life, for it was an act in which he took full responsibility of making a decision. With only an eighth-grade education and the wrong color of skin, Thomas did not have much opportunity, and the opportunities presented him were still less than that presented to most white folk.

In the author’s telling, Thomas’ actions seemed reasonable but simultaneously immoral. That quandary and contradiction creates tension and sympathy in the reader. In the final chapter, I read the case for and against the protagonist, and I could not help but agree with both accounts. It thus vividly portrayed what happens to oppressed people in seemingly intractable situations. The main remedy or next step, it seems, was awareness.

The original text, now preserved in my edition of the book, was too vivid for original readers in the 1940s, so Wright revised it so that it would reach a wide audience of a specific book club. The publisher thought that it would turn off pre-World-War-II American housewives who populated the book club. Fortunately, the book sold well and was eventually deemed a classic. Also fortunately, the original text was later re-discovered and disseminated to the reading public.

In an era when America’s systemic racism is regularly discussed in the news, this text provides an interesting and relevant historical nugget. It’s one of the first vivid portrayals of post-slavery African-American life. It reminds us that undoing America’s “original sin” of slavery requires more than just Constitutional amendments. Though this work might prove too seedy for grade-school students, it should not be neglected by the curious reader. Its seediness is not sensationalism but instead meaningful. We are not so far off Wright’s 1940-era Chicago that these type of situations do not remain. Rather, the setting’s similarity to the present day needs to be contemplated still. Few better resources for this task exist in America’s literary past than Native Son. ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 9, 2021 |
Harrowing and eloquent. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
I first read Richard Wright in high school, I believe we read Black Boy, and his writing stuck with me all those years. I got my own copies of Native Son and Black Boy and now I'm reading them in the current era of racial injustice and Native Son is just as relevant and powerful as it was when it was published. It is a difficult read and Bigger Thomas is a complex character. There were times when I really could only read a few pages at a time, when saw the terrible things coming and so wanted there to be better answers. It's a brilliant novel, thought-provoking. I found the ending esp. moving and really did need to sit and think for a long while afterward.
  amyem58 | Sep 29, 2020 |
When I started listening to this book I could understand why others could not finish it. It grabbed at my stomach. I became tense. I could hardly stand to hear another word.

Why? Because the main character, Bigger Thomas, makes some very bad decisions and we are right there with him. It is 1940 and the world of the young black man - or any black person, really - in the U.S. was severely limited, both literally and practically. It was the world where the so-called Uncle Toms made their way by playing the part of the subservient, meek negro and those who dared to think beyond that place were quickly condemned. It was a time when only apartments on the south side of Chicago were available for rent to blacks, and the rent was higher than it was for equivalent housing for whites. It was a time when, essentially, the black man was defined by the white man.

So when Bigger commits a horrendous crime we know how this story ends.

I stayed with it in spite of not liking Bigger because I sensed that there was something more to be learned here. And I was right. Wright, who was able to publish this book because of his participation in the Federal Writers Project, was a voracious reader. All the reading was his education and his training in writing.

In a way it seemed to me that Wright may have overtold Bigger's thoughts or perhaps stated them too clearly, but that did not detract from the book, for me. That is, we listen in on his thoughts all the time, and on occasion I wondered, would he have been able to draw these conclusions, to understand his actions as well as he says? Maybe not, but it is certainly illuminating to me. And although this was a different time and much has changed, there is still a message or two here for today.

****spoiler alert*****Don't go here if you haven't read it or don't intend to****

What Bigger explains after he has been caught for the murder of a white woman is that the act changed him forever. For the first time in his life he felt free. He did not feel remorse, he felt free. I think I understand this. It is not an excuse for killing but it explains a lot else. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Wright, Richardautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Diaz, DavidAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Fisher, Dorothy CanfieldIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Olzon, GöstaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Pellizzi, CamilloTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Phillips, CarylIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Rampersad, ArnoldIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Reilly, JohnEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Solotaroff, TheodoreEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Oggi ancora il mio lamento è ribellione, la mia piaga è piu' grave dei miei sospiri" Libro di Giobbe, 22,3
Even today is my complaint rebellious,
My stroke is heavier than my groaning.
—Job
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A mia madre- che, quando ero bimbo alle sue ginocchia, m'insegno' l'ammirazione e il rispetto delle cose e degli uomini immaginosi e fantastici.
TO
My Mother
who, when I was a child at her knee, taught me to revere the fanciful and imaginative
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Brrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinng! An alarm clock clanged in the dark and silent room.
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Wikipedia en anglès (4)

Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright's novel is just as powerful today as when it was written -- in its reflection of poverty and hopelessness, and what it means to be black in America.

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