10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Tough and Uncompromising,
This review is from: Native Son (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)Although "Native Son" is not written in the first person, the narrative concentrates almost exclusively on the central character, Bigger Thomas. This gives the story all the intensity and focus of a first-person account, but enables the author to use a more articulate voice than his subject would have been capable of. Few novelists have employed this technique in such an uncompromising way. We are with Thomas every breath, every step. I think few readers will get to like him, any more than Wright himself does, but we get to know and understand him. He is a product of 1930s America, of deeply ingrained racial prejudice and extreme economic disparity. Wright does not suggest that this excuses Bigger, only that it explains him. The writing style is lean and muscular, sparse and direct. We are given only bare descriptions as Wright allows action and dialogue to carry the story.
The plot is sound, the only really implausible element being the gathering of the entire cast of characters in the prison cell, something Wright himself acknowledged could not happen in reality but for which he allowed himself dramatic license. It is true though, that the final phase goes on too long and the long diatribes from Max are unconvincing. Another socialist writer, Upton Sinclair, suffered from the same tendency to preach instead of relying on the story to carry the message. Despite these reservations, "Native Son" remains an important social commentary and a forceful and compelling portrait of a lost soul.