Customer Reviews


323 Reviews
5 star:
 (190)
4 star:
 (79)
3 star:
 (21)
2 star:
 (11)
1 star:
 (22)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


110 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book to learn from
I recently read Native Son,by Richard Wright, in my 8th grade English class while my class was reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Native Son is the shocking story of a young African American man, Bigger Thomas, living in the "black belt" of Chicago. Every second of his life he encounters the hateful separation society has put between blacks and whites. One night, caught in...
Published on May 18, 2000 by KT8candy@aol.com

versus
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars surrealistic plot and unsympathetic characters
Native Son describes the plight of a black man whose accidental crime makes him a target of white society. Given this, it would appear that the reader would sympathize w/ Bigger's plight and feel outrage during his trial. Bigger, however, is difficult to sympathize with. While his first murder is accidental, his second is not. He rapes his girlfriend and beats her...
Published on March 10, 1999


‹ Previous | 1 233 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

110 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book to learn from, May 18, 2000
By 
This review is from: Native Son (Mass Market Paperback)
I recently read Native Son,by Richard Wright, in my 8th grade English class while my class was reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Native Son is the shocking story of a young African American man, Bigger Thomas, living in the "black belt" of Chicago. Every second of his life he encounters the hateful separation society has put between blacks and whites. One night, caught in fear, anger and hate he commits his first murder against the daughter of his employer. Reading the two books simultaneously, I found many interesting comparisons between Native Son and To Kill a Mockingbird. They are both about the trial of a black man. In To Kill a Mockingbird the black man is innocent, however the racist town convicts him. Yet in Native Son he is guilty. Harper Lee tells her story through the point of view of a white person ( she herself is white) yet Richard Wright (a black man) tells the tale through Bigger's eyes. It is interesting to compare the two points of view, telling a similar tale through the two sides of racism. Both authors show their side of the story. Bigger's tale is told in a bigger and more dramatic way than how the whites regard the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird. Both stories portray the separation between African Americans and whites. Reading about this separation in both stories taught me a lot about this countries history. I learned about the strong hate that came between the races and the fear, anger and rage that results from it. The content of Native Son, is not always light. The hideous crimes Bigger commits are hardly small sins, but actions that effect an entire society. Wright's phenomenal writing described the hateful emotion of racism I will never understand. I found it difficult reading such horrible tales of hate, fear and anger. However, I found that reading it helped me to understand a lot of the scandalous society I live in. I learned to what degree racial discrimination of any kind can affect a person. It taught me a lot about issues I don't encounter everyday. I could not honestly say I liked this book; it is not a book one enjoys. It was a book that taught me a lot about our countries history and simple human emotions. I can only say that I am glad I read it, for it was a worthwhile experience. It is a hard book to read, both in language in content, but it shows an account that most likely happened at some time. Its historical aspects teaches the reader not only about racial discrimination but hate, anger and fear. Everyone living in America should read Native Son.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living for the City..., February 5, 2011
By 
Geoffrey Halston (Woodbury, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Native Son (Paperback)
A compelling read from start to finish, this book tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a black youth living in the Chicago ghetto during the 1930s. Bigger Thomas is an archtype for the experience of black youths, the black struggle in America. I have read "Sonny's Blues," "Invisible Man," but I have found this novel the most powerful of the three.
This is also a great read for the would-be fiction writer. It's all here: plot, character, setting and gripping story telling that holds you to the end.
A must read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EMOTIONAL, GUT-WRENCHING, CHILLING.... BOTTOM LINE: TRUTHFUL, July 23, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Native Son (Mass Market Paperback)
Before I read this novel, I was burdened with a strong ambivalence. Certain people around me who have read NATIVE SON say that it's a horrible depiction of African Americans, structuring them as callous murderers and strictly unlikable. Yet others claimed it to be a masterpiece and when it ranked as one of the top 100 English language novels of the 20th century, I decided to give it a chance. WAKE UP. That's the feel when we start the novel and as it proceeds, nothing much happens for the first several pages. We familiarize with Bigger's violent temper and reputation for being the way he is. He gets a job working for a wealthy white family, a family very charitable to Negroes. Well, even though it seems they do it mainly to unhold the kindheartedness associated with their family name, the family takes in Bigger. There's the daughter, Mary, who introduces Bigger to her boyfriend, Jan, and they are sympathetic with the Negro race. Sympathetic to the point where Bigger hates them for it. While delivering Jan drunk to her room later that night, Bigger inadvertantly smothers her with a pillow while trying to cover up her unsobriety as her blind mother enters the room, killing her. Scared, Bigger cuts off her head and throws her remains into the furnace. Brutal, yeah. I won't say what else happens next but I will tell you my overall opinion on the novel. I think it's wonderful, excellent, and a masterpiece that simply has to be read. Even though if Bigger had been a real person and I was watching his trial on television, I would have said, "Yeah, execute the man", this novel does put something into perspective that some might find disturbing to ruminate over yet will have to agree with. HATE BREEDS HATE. The hate that the white people had administered to him created violent rifts into Bigger, transforming him cold-blooded man. It completely desensitized him and all he knew was how to return the hate rather than to ignore or overcome it. And once hate is constructed, the road to redemption, the road to extrication from that hate is filled with sharp glass and nails and you're a traveller walking barefoot miles and miles upon its path. For example, the scene where Jan and Mary take Bigger to the diner. They're kind, yes, but their sympathy makes Bigger feel like they are still treating him inferior, that he is an animal. It is one of the novels that made me cognizant of a society that cannot exist and that the only way we can survive is by coexisting. I don't know if others got that message but I sure did.
Richard Wright, I believe, made a huge risk by writing this novel but it is ultimately grand and groundbreaking. His portrait of human emotions is realistic and unparalleled and though he does not drown the novel with a flood of description, we get the basic idea of Bigger's surroundings. We can see the raggedy conditions at his home, we can feel the hate as Bigger is apprehended, and we feel his isolation as he remains in his jail cell. PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE THIS NOVEL. Thanks for your time.
- Timmy
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing is ever old, March 7, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Native Son (Kindle Edition)
This book could have been written this year, the tenor is very contemporary. The themes and stereotypes are as prevelent today as they were then. The strength of the writing is timeless.The setting is gritty and real, the people are knowable. I enjoyed reading it again.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He Never Had a Chance, January 22, 2007
By 
Sean K (Anaheim, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Native Son (Paperback)
"The Native Son" delivers a chilling account of how an ordinary Black American, living in 1930s Chicago, can commit a heinous crime and subsequent cover-up, for the systemic racism and oppression present in America helped to create the conditions in which this horrendous act could occur. "The Native Son", written before the modern Civil Rights movement, does not issue a blanket amnesty for the crimes committed by Blacks, but helps the reader to understand the mindset of a Black living in this oppressed and segregated society where hope abounds only in the afterlife. Although Communists are portrayed sympathetically, this novel is not a call for a "revolution" or blatant propaganda against the "rich."

Wright explores racism and its effects, not only on the oppressed, but also on the oppressors. Bigger, the oppressed, fails to see whites as individuals and stereotypes all as racist bigots who intend only to harm him. Of course, there are plenty of these individuals about, yet there are genuine decent whites who Bigger fails to see as human. On the other side, of course, is the systemic abuse of Blacks as they are forced to live into a small section of the South Side in decrepit ghettos. Remarkably, this is a step up from their sharecropping days in the Jim Crow South, where Bigger grew up. However, even those whites who deem themselves to be sympathetic to the "Colored" cause, such as the Daltons, are condescending and arrogant. The Daltons, typical guilty liberals, have contributed thousands to the NAACP, yet they indirectly control the real estate company that reaps the benefits of the segregated society and the artificially higher rents in the black tenements. Even Mary and Jan, who attempt to treat Bigger as an equal, do so in a degrading and condescending manner as they attempt to understand his "people". Indeed, when this large wall of separation is breached, rabid fear is instilled in Bigger, which leads to his acts of murder.

Blindness is a recurrent theme throughout, as Mrs. Dalton is literally blind, yet it is the entire society that is blind to the plight of the likes of Bigger Thomas. Of course, Bigger is also blind to the other side and has bred hate and contempt for all whites, even those that do good. Throughout Bigger's journey of self-awareness in prison, he attempts to break through this blindness and to see his purpose in life. Tragically, only as he awaits his final fate does he realize that his white enemies and himself share the same fears and hopes and insecurities.

Although the first two-thirds of this novel will leave you spell-bound with its details and its suspense, I was expecting a letdown in the final part of the novel and a rehash of "The Jungle" syndrome, as I'll call it. In "The Jungle", Sinclair provides a scintillating story in the first part of the novel, but this serves only as a pretext to the blatant Socialist propaganda in its final part (no thanks, Mr. Sinclair). And though the last part of "The Native Son" espouses Wright's philosophy on racial oppression and may be sympathetic toward Socialist ideals, it is more of a subtle warning against the conditions that existed at that time which were a powder keg for future violent racial strife. Although there are definitely aspects which serve to blame society and divorce responsibility from his actions, in the end Bigger does take responsibility and comes to an understanding that he may have been oppressed and victimized, yet there were outlets other than violence for his despair.

Overall, Wright provides a chilling account of the state of race relations in 1930s Chicago and in America, in general. Although some may interpret Wright's novel as an attempt to deflect responsibility and to blame society for the actions of others, I believe Wright is attempting to distill a much deeper meaning and understanding for all races to come together.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars surrealistic plot and unsympathetic characters, March 10, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Native Son (Mass Market Paperback)
Native Son describes the plight of a black man whose accidental crime makes him a target of white society. Given this, it would appear that the reader would sympathize w/ Bigger's plight and feel outrage during his trial. Bigger, however, is difficult to sympathize with. While his first murder is accidental, his second is not. He rapes his girlfriend and beats her head in with a brick. The trial is biased. Again, the sympathy ought to go to Bigger when they unjustly accuse him of raping the white girl. However, if the trial were fair, he would be found guilty of raping and murding the black girl, so it is hard to be sympathetic from that angle. The communist slant of the book appears outdated to me, but some readers may find it interesting. I found the entire sequence between the suffocation and cremation to be surreal and difficult to swallow. Not that it couldn't have happened, but that the way it is described seems like something out of a dream. This book clearly reveals racism in American society, and for that it has its merits, but I found Bigger to be unsympathetic and to get no worse then he deserved, despite the injustice of the system. You might as well pity Camus' the Stranger for killing because the sun was in his eyes, even if his trial focused on unrelated events. Books such as To Kill A Mockingbird create more pity by demonstrating injustice to an innocent man. It is much more difficult to pity the guilty.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Interesting As History Than Literature, September 8, 2006
This review is from: Native Son (Paperback)
It is not simple to review this novel, since its success and value depend a great deal on what the reader is looking for. Purely as entertainment -- is it an enjoyable (however you want to define that) read? -- the book is spotty. My edition runs about 500 pages, including a lengthy, self-important introduction by the author, and I found the middle 250 pages very compelling reading; I really wanted to know what happened next. The beginning and end were far less interesting. This is attributable largely to the author's very obvious intent to use the novel as a means to convey a Message, and his limited skill. Rather than have the message emerge as an implication of the story, the characters instead are crudely-drawn stereotypes designed to portray and declare, in very broad strokes, the author's philosophical beliefs, which are not at all subtle. Time and time again I came across passages that were so heavy-handed and preachy, with the narrator forcing his views down the reader's throat between the characters' chessboard-like moves, that I thought they'd make excellent examples of bad writing for a class of beginning novelists.

The book therefore must be valued, if at all, for the author's message and the novel's place in history as one of the first to try to address it. I find it difficult to imagine that a modern reader could find the author's premise -- that centuries of oppression made blacks capable of acting in a manner that those in the dominant culture would consider inhumanly brutal -- particularly new and revealing, but it's important to consider that it apparently was so when the book was written only sixty-six years ago, itself an important commentary on American society. The book therefore would be an excellent addition to the reading list for a class on history or sociology.

Taken out of historical context (i.e., ignoring the fact that this was a new perspective at the time and setting aside the tremendous credit due Wright for having written it when he did), I found it unpersuasive. This is not to say that conditions have changed so much that what may have been true in 1940 has little relevance today, but that the author failed to persuade me that a brutal rapist and murderer who, the author acknowledges, has virtually no redeeming qualities, and never showed any remorse, should be spared, in 1940 or today, the death penalty, unless it is assumed the death penalty is per se never appropriate. This is certainly a reasonable view, and at very least a point worth debating, but it is not the author's point, which is that his protagonist should be spared because Society Made Him Do It -- a point that he tries to make in an attorney's speech that (speaking as an attorney) is terribly inept. (In fact, after taking hundreds of pages to get to the point where Wright finally takes the opportunity to express his perspective directly, I felt the author fell flat on his face.) I know of far better crafted works that have since been written that are both more interesting and more persuasive about the author's intended message, and I'm by no means very knowledgeable about this genre (Manchild in the Promised Land and the Autobiography of Malcolm X come to mind.)

So as an historical document, I'd give this five stars, but if its historical context doesn't interest you, I'd pass.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are still resonances of the Bigger Thomas in American society, March 30, 2008
This review is from: Native Son (Abridged) (Paperback)
This is one of Wright's most important novels. It tells the story of the short life of Bigger Thomas, perhaps as an allegorical prototype of the typical life of a Black Chicagoan, or indeed maybe the archetype for all young black men in America, where the forces of society press upon them to live fast and die young, or live long and end up in prison or be ignored and live a social death on the outer margins of American life.

Bigger seemed to have had no redeeming qualities, and never showed any remorse, for anything he did. He had absolutely nothing going for him but bottomless hatred and bitterness towards whites and an innate ability to observe and size them up. A great deal of his life and thoughts were spent playing a double game: pretending to befriend them at the same time that he was watching their every move and stalking them as if they were prey.

One of Wright's gifts is that he allows the reader to be "ear witness" to Bigger's innermost thoughts. The dialogue is told from the point of view of what is going on in Bigger's head. He is constantly muttering his hatred and distrust of whites, both of which border on the pathological and continue increasing until they reach a crescendo, when an explosion seems imminent even when there were no obvious reasons for one. This passion for hatred and distrust eventually does spill over and comes to an ignominious climax, when Bigger rapes a white girl who has befriended him and as he is about to be caught in a her bedroom, he spares himself the need to explain or be caught red-handed, by killing her.

The story then switches to his trial and the relationship between Bigger and his Socialist lawyer, who himself tries to use the trial to make a point about the injustice in American society, remaining totally unaware that Bigger's hatred for whites also extends to him as well.

Native Son is obviously as much an ideological as a literary work, and while Wright's prose gets heavy-handed at times, and often gets in the way, he does eventually make his points well. All the issues are finally resolved, however cumbersomely done so.

The resonance in the subtext is that: unbridled and mindless hatred and bitterness always leads to ignominious and diminished ends, and to an overall diminishment of humanity. American society in the 1940s, as is still true today, is a constant theater where hatred is always being played out on stage, and not necessarily by the "Bigger Thomases" of our nation. Hatred is still a cottage industry and our nation's most sacred and most religious product.

Five Stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must read, June 28, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Native Son (Paperback)
Every young male should read this book in middle school. This book examplifies the feeling of many teens. One of the best books to explain how people feel on the inside.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Native Son, May 5, 2001
By 
"lil_chidi" (Arlington, TX USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Native Son (Mass Market Paperback)
Native Son is perhaps the best book that I have ever read. I can not directly relate to this book, because i have not been exposed to the conditions that are present in this book. However, I can imagine, being an African-American myself, what it was like during the time described in Native Son. In reading this book, I have definately gained an appreciation for the present and for the conditions that I live in. It has also given me a greater apppreciation for literature. Through Native Son, Richard Wright addresses the injustices that African-Americans endured during the 1930's. In reading the book, one must understand that Wright is not trying to portray whites as racist or as villains. He is simply trying to show the graveness of black people's condition and oppression. The purpose of this book is to show the black man's struggle to give meaning to his life despite living in a prejudiced society. He illustrates a troubled man's fear, flight, and fate. Bigger Thomas, the main character, represents the struggle of the black man. He represents the black man that refuses to be tamed by white society. He is an outsider, who, through his "trials" and tribulations, defines his life, finds his place in the world, and establishes his equality. Bigger, however, acheives these goals through violence, because he is surrounded by it; it is all he knows. This character makes up only one of millions of Biggers out their who revolt against the injustices of society. They are the products of American society, and therefore fit their names: "native sons."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 233 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Native Son
Native Son by Richard Wright (Paperback - 1996)
Used & New from: $3.22
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.