Native Son: Character Actions Defines Their Individual


Personalities and Belief Systems

Richard Wright\'s novel, Native Son, consisted of various main and
supporting character to deliver an effective array of
personalities and expression. Each character\'s actions defines
their individual personalities and belief systems. The main
character of Native Son, Bigger Thomas has personality traits
spanning various aspect of human nature including actions
motivated by fear, quick temper, and a high degree of
intelligence. Bigger, whom the novel revolves around, portrays
various personality elements through his actions.

Many of his action suggest an overriding response to fear, which
stems from his exposure to a harsh social climate in which a clear
line between acceptable behavior for white\'s and black\'s exists.
His swift anger and his destructive impulses stem from that fear
and becomes apparent in the opening scene when he fiercely attacks
a huge rat. The same murderous impulse appears when his secret
dread of the delicatessen robbery impels him to commit a vicious
assault on his friend Gus. Bigger commits both of the brutal
murders not in rage or anger, but as a reaction to fear. His
typical fear stems from being caught in the act of doing
something socially unacceptable and being the subject of
punishment. Although he later admits to Max that Mary Dalton\'s
behavior toward him made him hate her, it is not that hate which
causes him to smother her to death, but a feeble attempt to evade
the detection of her mother. The fear of being caught with a
white woman overwhelmed his common sense and dictated his
actions. When he attempted to murder Bessie, his motivation came
from intense fear of the consequences of "letting" her live.
Bigger realized that he could not take Bessie with him or leave
her behind and concluded that killing her could provide her only
"merciful" end.

The emotional forces that drive Bigger are conveyed by means other
than his words. Besides reactions to fear, his actions demonstrate
an extremely quick temper and destructive impulse as an integral
part of his nature. Rage plays a key part in his basic nature,
but does not directly motivate the murders he commits. Rage does
not affect Bigger\'s intelligence and quick thinking and it becomes
evident during the interview with Briton. The detective makes
Bigger so angry that the interrogation becomes a game to Bigger,
a game of logic and wills, of playing the stupid negro, and
telling the man exactly what he wants to hear. The game Bigger
plays during the interrogation shows his great intelligence and
ability to think quickly on his feet. Bigger also displayed his
intelligence in the creation of the ransom note. Using the
situation to his advantage, Bigger wrote a ransom note to extort
Mary\'s parents for money. To make the note even more convincing
and to dissuade blame from himself, Bigger signs the note with the
communist symbol of a hammer and sickle.

Although the book revolves around Bigger he possesses few good
qualities, which get his horrendous actions negate, making him an
anti-hero. He possess the violent tendencies to commit rape,
extortion of the dead girls parents, robbing, and killing innocent
people. These traits do not portray a simple victim of
circumstance, but a habitual criminal acting out against a
society. While Bigger dominates the story, his appalling actions
make him a man that the reader can not look upon as a hero. In
fact the author punishes the anti-hero character by condemning him
to death for his crimes.

One of the two most sympathetic characterizations of white persons
in the novel comes from the character of Jan Erlone, Mary Dalton\'s
friend. He exhibits an enthusiastic personality and represents an
idealistic young organizer for the Communist party. Mary\'s
parents and their servant Peggy distrust his motives. Bigger
initially expresses a distaste for "reds" when responding to Jan\'s
friendly advances during their first meeting. While receiving
distrust from those around him, Jan retains a simple belief in the
equality for all men, regardless of social class or race.
Throughout Jan\'s first meeting with Bigger, he regards Bigger with
the utmost respect. During the course of the night, Jan sits in
the front of the car with Bigger, eats with him, drinks with him,
and speaks to him as an equal. Those actions of equality portray
more than a decent man, it shows that Jan\'s character possesses a
strong sense of morality and honesty. Jan is also characterized
by other heroic traits, forgiveness and understanding. As an
interesting twist of fate, Jan gets Bigger an attorney, and
demonstrates that he could forgive Bigger for implicating him for
Mary\'s "kidnapping".

The second sympathetic white character, Boris A. Max, portrays the
Communist