Black Boy, Native Son, Rite Of Passage, and The Long Dream: Self-realization of a Black Man
The white world dominates the political and social life in all of Richard Wright's books as Wright portrays the never-ending struggle that a young black male faces when growing up in the United States. Wright's Black Boy, Native Son, Rite Of Passage, and The Long Dream are all bound by the common theme of self-realization. In all four books, the climax occurs when a black youth realizes his position in society and the ugly future that lies ahead of him.
In his autobiography Black Boy, Wright reveals his personal experience as a black maturing in a white society. The process of achieving self-realization is marked by all the verbal and physical battles that the main characters in Wright's books must fight. He makes clear what all his characters experience, when he writes in Black Boy, "I had never in my life been abused by whites, but I had already become as conditioned to their existence as though I had been the victim of a thousand lynchings" (34). The powerful presence of whites in a black youth's life is embedded since birth but emerges clearly during the period of self-realization for the black youth
In Native Son, the main character, Bigger Thomas, lives in a one-room apartment with his mother, brother, and sister in a black ghetto on the South Side of Chicago. Bigger sees whites through hate- and jealousy-filled eyes. Feelings of inferiority to whites consumes Bigger's life. However, he tries to help his family by working for a wealthy, well-respected white family. But, in a moment of fear and hysteria, Bigger commits a murder that alters his life forever. Compared to the three other main characters in Wright's books, Bigger is the oldest and has already developed a deep resentment of his situation in society.
"I could fly a plane if I had the chance," Bigger said. "If you wasn't black and if you had some money and if they'd let you go to that aviation school, you could fly a plane," Gus said. For a moment Bigger contemplated all the ifs that Gus had mentioned. Then both boys broke into hard laughter, looking at each other through squinted eyes (17).
Bigger knows that he is limited by society, but he does not possess the resources to combat the injustices he experiences. Bigger has no father, which creates the burden of having to support the rest of his family. He is under constant pressure from his mother, who nags and pleads with Bigger to get a job and to become a real man. "We wouldn't have to live in this garbage dump if you had any manhood in you," she says." (7) She has no goals for herself or for Bigger, other than moving out of their rat-infested apartment. Bigger has no significant education, skills, or talents. He also lacks confidence and determination. He really possesses only the understanding that he is worthless in the white man's world. This is a kind of self-realization,...