Mastering the master's tongue: bigger as oppressor in Richard Wright's native son
The Mississippi Quarterly
Mississippi State University
267 - 276
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Part of a special issue on Richard Wright. Race is the basic element of the discourse of difference that pervades interracial relations. Wright's Native Son addresses the dire consequences of the whites' image-formation of blacks as it analyzes the role of perception in interracial relations. Stereotypical images of blacks that have been part of colonialist discourse are also part of the white stereotyping of Bigger Thomas. Bigger's violent killing of the rat in the opening scenes of the novel juxtaposes Bigger's anger with the rat's fear. Having become a murderer in order not to enact the white myth of the black rapist, Bigger is trapped by police in the closing scenes of the novel and becomes the rat whose final cry of defiance is to no avail. Unlike the rat at the beginning, however, he is able to attack both physically and mentally at the end.