Aims of the discussion
- Examine the method in which structure and style contribute to the reading’s analysis of Bigger’s psyche
- Examine the complex relationships between Bigger (a poverty-stricken black man), the private investigator (the ideal American white male), and the press (which paints public portrayals)
General Introductory Themes
- Changes in narrative style
- Racial introspection, how the depiction of one man may affect the actions conducted on others
- How does one interpret what is in their control?
Topic 1: Narrative Style
- Change in narrative style from omnipresent to what seems as if viewing the world only through Bigger’s perceptions (202, 215)
- 234 -> stream of consciousness-like in which the reader gets to step inside Bigger’s mind right before he rapes Bessie.
- Steps away from Bigger’s mind and asks questions for the reader to ask about Bigger (240).
- The narrative style of Native Son structures thought processes by moving in and out the mind of Bigger—showcasing the individual and the group dynamics of thought.
Topic 2: The Press
- How is the Press used to show how persuasive it can be to alter public opinion?
- The press: “youre putting us in the position of having to print anything we can get about this case” (200)
- Bigger learns more of the case via the newspaper (242-243)
- Structure in which headlines and news clippings are presented in the novel. How would novel be different if the press was not involved?
Topic 3: Bigger’s racial introspection and his thoughts on possibilities and the Future
- He felt suddenly that he wanted something in his hand, something solid and heavy: his gun, a knife, a brick,” (144). Does this suggest that because he doesn’t hold certainty in his life that he must hold/possess a weapon for protection
- Repetition of “would” throughout the first third of the novel, but as well on page 153. This repletion consistently displays a matter-of-fact tone which implies that Bigger does not control his fate.
- Bessie stating, “You know we’s black. We can’t go just anywhere,” as she refers to if Bigger and she were to get caught after bribing the Daltons (148).
Topic 4: The Detective as a Representation of Institutionalized Racism
- Britten’s use of the N-word and utter hatred of communism.
- Introduction of P.I. Mr. Britten on page 155-157. A dominating figure that belittles Bigger with his use of “Boy” and yelling.
- Contrast Bigger’s attitude/responses to Britten with those toward Bessie (179).
- Quickly accuses Bigger as a communist (161).
- Bigger convicts one of his intellectual and society support line of Jan (167) Britten is less accusative, but rather more methodical in his integration of Jan.
- Is the P.I in this novel the suave and heroic detective that Sam Spade may be preserved as in The Maltese Falcon?
- Slightly unrelated, but maybe speak about the snowstorm and the Chicago weather as another means in which institutionalized racism is depicted—it smothers and suffocates Bigger (199, 220 , 241).
- The bell (165): Does this short, but compact, section contribute to Bigger’s impending doom?
- The white snowstorm may be a parallel with snow/winter in The Jungle; after the storm the city continues to be all white
- The name of this chapter is named “Book Two: Flight” yet Bigger is captured, and unlike a bird which can fly away to freedom Bigger is ultimately captured.