Native Son

  • Study Guide

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

Quote 1

Was what he had heard about rich white people really true? Was he going to work for people like you saw in the movies . . . ? He looked at Trader Horn unfold and saw pictures of naked black men and women whirling in wild dances . . . .

This passage from Book One appears as Bigger sits in the movie theater, thinking about the possibilities for his new job as the Daltons’ chauffeur. He has just seen the newsreel about Mary and has decided that he might find more to like about the job than he initially suspects. Here we see just how little contact Bigger has had with white people and therefore how impossible it is for him to conceive of them in realistic terms. We also see the importance of popular culture in determining societal attitudes, as Bigger is only able to imagine the Daltons’ lives by drawing upon movies that portray rich white people. The movie screen shows a scene of black savages dancing in a jungle, which Bigger covers up in his mind with an imagined scene of an elegant white cocktail party. Wright juxtaposes these sharply contrasting images to indicate the extent to which Bigger’s—and America’s—attitudes about whites and blacks are determined by popular culture. This popular culture inundates the America of Wright’s time with imagery that depicts blacks as savages and whites as cultured and sophisticated millionaires.