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Bigger Thomas: Tragic Hero in Native Son

Author HuangWeiFeng
Tutor HuangWeiFeng
School Wenzhou University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Native Son tragic hero Bigger Thomas Double Consciousness New Negro spiritual growth
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Richard Wright is an indispensable representative figure in the American literary history. His masterpiece Native Son is a novel which is worshipped as an American classic, and hotly and lastingly debated among the enormous researchers. Unfortunately, due to the influence of naturalism and realism in the novel, it has become the main research inclination to regard the protagonist Bigger Thomas as the naturalistic victim or existential hero under the background of white-black racial conflict as well as Native Son a social documentary to the biracial relations then and there from the sociological standpoint.Thus, based on the predecessors’academic achievements and a close reading of the text, this paper attempts to outline Bigger’s spiritual growth process gradually from his blind rebellion to a tragic hero with the link with the correspondent historical background and a survey to the racial identity and the tragic factor in him, in order to clarify Bigger’s plight as the image of a New Negro, his tragic consequence and its implications. Bigger has dreamt of realizing his black American dream of freedom, equality and self-realization, but under a racist society, his frustration of such dream is doomed. Bigger inevitably becomes a victim and loser of the Jim Crow society. Bigger is a young man with passion and his aspirations for piloting a plane, joining the army and running a business is preconditioned to be a failure because of his dark skin which makes him get trapped in an embarrassed situation between hoping to“do things”and his impotence. Moreover, the conflict and interaction between Bigger and the racist environment shape his unconfident Double Consciousness which checks himself through others’eyes. Such Double Consciousness is the reflection of his cultural and racial“otherness”. Simultaneously, Bigger is a New Negro, daring to fight back. His unconscious murdering of Mary faithfully reflects his personality of New Negro. Fortunately, Bigger is not confined within violent struggle. After his captivity for the crime of killing, Bigger experiences the process of spiritual growth, starting to ponder on the meaning of life and death. In this way, Bigger transcends the state of blind rebellion and finally grows up to a tragic hero.

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