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Native Son Paperback – 16 Sep 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Paperback, 16 Sep 2014
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Product details

  • Paperback: 545 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Limited edition (16 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062357255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062357250
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 3.6 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 415,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Before he was 40, Wright dominated literary America, publishing four books in seven years, each a triumph in its genre. His first novel, Native Son (1940), sold at the rate of 2,000 copies a day, making Wright the first best-selling black writer in the country's history. Black Boy (1945), his memoir of his Southern childhood, was a bigger success, selling more than a half-million copies." (New York Times)

"Richard Wright's Native Son is, in addition to being a masterpiece, a Great American Novel" (David Mamet Guardian)

"Unsettling urban violence from the man who was Mosley's inspiration" (The Times)

"Native Son is the story of a young black man who kills two white women; and it was the first book - published in 1940 - to suggest that black Americans could actually get angry. When it came out, it beat The Grapes of Wrath in the best-seller lists" (Independent) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Richard Wright's brutal and gripping novel was a huge hit - selling at a rate of 2,000 copies a day - on first publication in 1940. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 4 April 2003
Format: Paperback
Guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, once picked up it's impossible to put down. If it's a fairy tale ending you're after, this definitely isn't for you. Descibing vividly the poverty, deprivation and oppression suffered by the black people of 1930/40's America, a special message is conveyed through a host of disturbing truths that are certain to hit the reader hard. The central character, Bigger Thomas is portrayed as both murderer and victim in this cleverly devised masterpiece. The sufferings of an entire race seem subject to the future of Thomas, the 20 year old man who's life has been predominantly controlled by a cold and fierce people. This WHITE blanket that smothers the BLACK world that Bigger grows to hate provides the reader with a situation they undoubtedly become passionate about. By the end, the reader is left feeling subdued; resentful yet compassionate and merciful. The only criticism i would have, is that the book does depend a lot upon the reader being able to empathise with Bigger, which is something that i personally found quite hard to do. Neverthless, another must read from Richard Wright.
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Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
I read this for book club and I found it quite difficult to get into at first. Then it became quite interesting for different reasons - there are race and class issues - the antagonist, Bigger Thomas, is a black American living in poverty in the Chicago in the 1930s, taken into employment by a wealthy white man, Mr Dalton, and given lodgings with his family. Alongside this is also a political angle - with Communists attempting to subvert the expected standards of societal behaviour. Bigger Thomas is employed by Mr Dalton, but his daughter attempts to treat Bigger as an equal leading him to feel uncomfortable and afraid. Bad things happen in this book and you can read the book for a social commentary on life in America in the 1930s or you can take all of those things out and just read it just as the story of the descent of a person into evil. At the heart of the book is the question, "how does such evil happen?"
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Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
This book is very user friendly and the type of dramatic realism that can't fails to grasp one's attention. From the outset the reader is embroiled in the grim cirmcumstances of the protagonist, but the author does not paint his protagonist as either a hero or a victim keeping the book nicely neutral for the reader to make their conclusions from the hard-hitting storyline.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bigger Thomas is a deeply disaffected black man living in post-Depression pre WW2 Chicago. He hates the white world as much as most of it appears to hate him and this novel recounts his tale through double murder,pusuit,capture and trial.

Wright has a lead character who is a bully,thug and coward whom he must bestow with deep insights into rabid racism, anti-semitism and pre McCarthy anti-Communism. These are major,worthy themes but for me Bigger just isn't the voice for them.

The trial scene is very weak descending into a polemic rant which Bigger 'don't understand' and I can sympathise with him at 'falling asleep through most of it'.

In 1940 this must have been powerful stuff and it's worth reading in that context. It chugs along and is worth 3 stars.

Mr Wright's 'Introduction' to this work states, 'I am not so pretentious as to imagine that it is possible for me to account completely for my own book...But I am going to try to account for as much of it as I can....' and 30 pages of Intro later he has had a good go! Pretentious?
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Format: Paperback
This is probably one of the most intense books I've ever read. It's confusing how the writer causes the reader to be revolted by his crimes yet we are also inside the protagonists head and feel we are also along for the ride. Aside from the murders, this book is an eye opener into the racial prejudices that were faced, and aspects are probably still relevant today.
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