Native Son Questions: February 24th

1. What are some of the reasons that Bigger begins to trust Jan and Boris Max?

2. Why does Bigger attack Reverend Hammond and discard the cross Hammond has given to him?
3. What two incidents in the novel indicate that the author believes that the psychiatric profession has contributed to racism?
4. What is Bigger’s response to his family’s visit to see him in jail; what is most disturbing about the scene?

5. How does Buckley use racist tactics to imbue the white community with fear and hatred of African Americans?

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2 thoughts on “Native Son Questions: February 24th

  1. 1. At the beginning of Book Three, Bigger is faced with an internal conflict. The narrator states,” Toward no one in the world did he feel any fear now, for he knew that fear was useless; and toward no one in the world did he feel any hate now, for he knew that hate would not help him” (254). When Bigger is first captured by the police, he no longer feels hatred or fear. He has no hope either. He believes that hope makes him feel worse.
    Boris Max and Jan supports Bigger during his trial. Jan states, “I think I know something of what you’re feeling now”(p.266). Jan tells Bigger that he understands what he felt the night Bigger murdered Mary. This make Bigger sees Jan as an individual instead of a representation of the whiteness that Bigger feels pressing upon him. He know sees Jan as equal. Jan states, “Let me on your side, Bigger” (p. 268). Jan and Boris offer to help Bigger, and since Bigger is vulnerable, he feels forced to open up to them.

    2. Bigger feels abandoned by religion. Religion had seemed useless to him. It is one of the outlets that the blacks can use to cope with their oppression. Something had happened: the cross the preacher had hung around Bigger’s throat had been burned in front of his eyes” (312). After seeing the burning of the cross, as a symbol of the KKK, Bigger believes religion is basically dead. Reverend Hammond was a reminder to Bigger of the betrayal he believes exists within religion. “He had a cross of salvation round his throat and they were burning one to tell him that they hated him! No! He did not want that! Had the preacher trapped him?” (313) Bigger felt guilty and wanted to attack Reverend Hammond.

    3. The two events that occurred are when Bigger meets the African American who tells the president the problems of racism and when Boris Max makes his speech during Bigger’s trial. As the police take an African American to Bigger’s cell, the man states, “I know why you’re putting me in jail!” (p. 343). Both Bigger and the yelling man know that they deserve to have as many rights as the whites. Bigger now realizes that there other blacks that despise whites as well. During the trial, Boris Max makes his speech. “The hate and fear which we have inspired in him, woven by our civilization… have become the justification of his existence” (p.400). Boris believes that it is human nature for discrimination to happen, because whites and blacks have lived differently for years.

    4. Bigger is ashamed of what he has done and doesn’t want his family to see him in jail. His guilt broadens when he hears his mother say, “Bigger honey, she won’t go to school no more. She says the other girls look at and make her ‘shamed….” (277). The most disturbing part of this scene is that Bigger’s mother bows down before Mrs. Dalton, the white oppressor, and begs for mercy and this causes Bigger to be even more ashamed. She kneels on the floor and cries, pleading desperately with Dalton. The narrator states, “Bigger’s mother ran and knelt on the floor at Mrs. Dalton feet. Please, mam. Please, don’t let ‘em kill me boy! You know how a mother feels!” (280). It’s very sad to see anyone begging on their knees, especially for someone to plead with a blind woman.

    5. Buckley imbues the white community with fear by dehumanizing African Americans. Buckley states, “What in the hell you reds can get out of bothering with a black thing like that, God only knows” (271). He uses words such as ‘black ape’ to describe Bigger. Buckley is implying that African Americans are nothing but dangerous animals. He asks certain questions to imbue fear into whites. By doing this, he shows Bigger as a threat to everybody around him. This cuases violence between African Americans.

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