Native Son’s Book Two Presentation Outline

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).

Last Thoughts

  • 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.
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