Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. In what ways does Wright portray Bigger’s day-to-day existence as a prison, even before his arrest and trial?
2. Describe the real estate practices that were applied to black families in Chicago’s South Side in the 1930s. With these practices in mind, why is Mr. Dalton—an avowed philanthropist toward blacks—a hypocrite?
3. Describe Jan and Mary’s attitude toward race relations. In what ways does their more subtle racism resemble the more overt prejudice of other whites?
4. How does Bigger’s desperate flight from the police symbolize his existence as a whole?
5. As Wright portrays it, how does the psychology of racial prejudice contribute to Bigger’s transformation into a murderer and a criminal?
6. Is Bigger’s trial a fair one? In Wright’s portrayal, how does racism affect the American judicial process? What role does the media play in determining popular conceptions of justice?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Describe the psychological and behavioral change that overcomes Bigger during the interview with Mr. Dalton. Why does he change in the presence of Mr. Dalton? In what way is it significant that Bigger goes to the movies before going to the Daltons’?
2. What are some of the real historical events that occur or are mirrored in Native Son? How does Wright weave these events into his fictional narrative, and how does this technique affect the novel as a whole?
3. What role does imagery of vision and sight play in Native Son? Think especially of Mrs. Dalton’s blindness and Bigger’s murder of Mary.
4. How does popular culture serve as a form of indoctrination throughout Native Son?
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