Route 7 Review - Page 161

Be Bigger: We must revolt by releasing Richard Wright’s Native Son within us all. By Robert Powell Because Bigger Thomas’ plight in Richard Wright’s Native Son is universally ours—we should all “Be Bigger” and exercise his rebellion within us by fighting against the social and institutionalized system--no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. This idea is both individual and communal and holds true for all of humanity. Just like Native Son, “Being Bigger” transcends across cultural, racial, gender, class and socioeconomic boundaries. It goes far beyond mere racism, slavery and negative stereotypes of African-American men. These socially rebellious and ruggedly individual means are necessary to accomplish our communal end—more prosperity and happiness for all of us as individuals and citizens of the world How and why should we celebrate and emulate an African-American murderer in a work of fiction? How and why does he have anything in common with us? The purpose of this essay is not just to answer the above questions. This study will make parallels to the character Bigger Thomas with us (common humanity). It will also give the reader a sense of empathy showing a shared necessary rebellion on the way to a feasible blueprint for “Being Bigger.” In examining this blueprint, we must realize that the most vital aspect of the text and Bigger’s characterization is not where he begins or ends. Although where he ends is significant, the deep inferior lows in self-esteem, respect and human dignity that Bigger rises from are most important. “Being Bigger” is about transcendence. Dennis Sullivan et al. points out that, “. . . In far too many instances students are not being taught about the transformative dimensions of Native Son. . . we hope that they will be more inclined to read this classic in light of its transformative, restorative, personalist dimensions” (422). 1 The genius of Native Son is its ambiva- lently hybrid nature of artistic categorization. It is a naturalistic novel transformed into an existential novel; it is a social novel transformed into a psychological one. And finally, it is a communal novel transformed into an individualistic one. While it may not be adequately categorized only as the types that it transforms into—these are ultimately the most important aspects of the work. Robert Butler contends that, “Bigger is strongly conditioned by environment and able in certain ways to transform himself and his surroundings through consciousness and free will. . . by the end of the novel, Bigger is in control of his inward life and therefore can control himself in the outer world. Despite the fact that he will soon be executed, he is psychologically liberated in knowing that he can meet his death in a controlled and dignified way after he has come to human terms with himself and others” (110). While the social forces are very relevant, existentialism is most important in the work. Morals do not matter but the way in which we strive to “Be Bigger” does matter most. Aime J. Ellis argues that, understanding Bigger’s rage as, at times, “enabling” causes us to reconsider his humanity not simply in naively objective or positivistic terms but as an assertion of his dignity, self-worth, and “somebodiness” in a world that simultaneously dehumanizes him and renders him invisible. . . Bigger’s humanity is inextricably tied to the pursuit of his freedom. . . might one read Bigger’s actions as nothing less than ‘revolutionary’ in his attempt to subvert the social and political order of white supremacy and control (186)? Yes—with the choice of being a good nobody or evil somebody, he chooses to do and be something that matters to him. We must do it like Bigger does it—but in a positive way. Fortunately, today, (as compared to the Jim Crow era when Native Son was written) we have a wider range of choices and