Winter is coming. Snows will be falling and ice forming, it will be the joy of children and the hatred of adults. Whether it is cursed or blessed, it is coming and it will affect all equally; if that’s not justice then justice does not exist. The overwhelming ‘whiteness’ of it all will soon become evident and soon you will feel as if you are Bigger from “Native Son”.
In “Native Son” Richard Wright makes the point that due to social injustices people such as Bigger will never understand justice and what is right or wrong; makes his point through the symbolism of snow, the oppressiveness of popular culture, and the reflection of ignorance upon society through Bigger’s own ignorance.
Snow plays an important role in the plot of “Native Son”, it starts snowing after Bigger kills Mary and eventually hinders his escape effort so much that he gets captured. It not only plays a critical role in the plot it also makes, quite poignantly, a point against the oppressiveness of white culture at the time.
Throughout the book Bigger feels pressure from this overwhelming whiteness that’s all around him, it owns the building he lives in, he works for it and it controls almost all of the culture in the time. And this pressure he feels leads to the main plot points in the story; his killing Mary and his sexual assault and murder of Bessie. A parallel should also be pointed out, between the coldness of the snow and the coldness of his actions, as if the coldness of white oppression leads to the lack of guilt on his part. It is fair to say that Winter Has Come in “Native Son” and with it, the evil in human hearts comes out.
In the third section of “Native Son” popular culture’s treatment of the African-American minority is especially poignant; however, you can see an example of popular culture as soon as the first section of the book when Bigger goes to see a movie that details African-Americans as little more than savages. It’s fair to say that popular culture is just an extension of the collective mentality of America at that time and thus it becomes easy to see why Bigger felt the fear he did after he tried to kiss Mary and Mrs. Dalton comes into the room and why by extension he killed Mary.
Before his trial, Bigger is pronounced guilty by the media and by public opinion before he even gets his day in court. And despite the best efforts of his lawyer he is pronounced guilty, while he may have been guilty, there should have at least been a long period of time in which a case is made and the jurors have the time to see beyond the color of Bigger’s skin. However, if that were the case then the system would at least appear to be fair while in truth it wasn’t.
There is a certain irony present in “Native Son” that is apparent to the modern reader. The irony is that while white media claims that African-Americans are ignorant, their treatment of African-Americans is in fact the only ignorant thing in that relationship. Bigger is at first glance ignorant, however as the story progresses the reader learns that he is not ignorant merely held back by the limited ‘education’ he received up until eighth grade. The ‘ignorance’ of Bigger can justifiably be said to just be a reflection of the ignorance of society, and that he is the one who is enlightened.
Richard Wright illustrates through symbolism and motifs that the mistreatment of African-Americans is a self-destructive cycle which will continue to feed itself with further violence unless society changes to allow the contributions of all races to be heard. If it doesn’t then more and more people like Bigger will emerge and the cycle of ignorance and hate will only be furthered. Eventually, the heat of hatred will be so great that even winter will not cool it.
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