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Published: 14-10-2019

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Existential Ideas and Themes in Native Son

Existentialism emphasizes the existence of the person person as a cost-free and accountable agent figuring out their personal development through acts of the will. Contrarily, environmental determinism suggests that society shapes individuals, allowing for little individual motive. In Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son, a young black man named Bigger is faced with continual fear from oppressive societal tendencies, yet is inclined to define himself by his actions in order to locate identity. An existential sense of morality elicits behavior which opposes societal norms, whilst all-natural moral code benefits in conformity. Though Bigger is the item of an oppressive, fear stricken society, his basic need to have for self determined identity prompts him to embrace his actions.

Wright suggests all through the novel that ingrained societal tendencies figure out Bigger’s existence and behavior, implying that environmental determinism supersedes and corrupts his free will. Max, Bigger’s communist lawyer, insists that society has instilled fear in blacks and stripped them of their individuality: “they are powerless pawns in a blind play of social forces” (390). By means of this Communist viewpoint, Max argues that white society is to blame for Bigger’s worry, which eventually final results in his hateful behavior and crimes. These social forces are the result of a universal wish for power and superiority, which comes at the expense of blacks’ pride and individualism. Rather, blacks grow to be “powerless pawns,” dispensable pieces of a social game, noticed by whites merely as leverage to elevate their own social standing. Bigger is conditioned to hate himself and worry whites from a young age, as shame defines and controls him: “They created him feel his black skin by just standing there seeking at him, one holding his hand and the other smiling. He felt he had no physical existence at all proper then he was some thing to be hated, the badge of shame which he knew was attached to a black skin” (67). Larger is the product of a degenerate, oppressive society which promotes self-hatred and ultimately causes him to commit the crimes that he does. Living in continual worry, he is born with this “badge of shame” into a globe in which he can in no way win, belittled and degraded by a worry mongering white society.

Although society may possibly be at fault for Bigger’s behavior, he is compelled to subsequently take accountability for his actions in order to establish individualism and his personal identity. Claiming personal motive, Larger embraces and defines himself by his actions: “What I kill for I am . . . When a man kills, it’s for something” (429). Rather than blame societal tendencies for his faults, Larger adopts a mentality of intentionality to establish person identity. Claiming that he kills “for one thing,” Larger convinces himself that his actions had been justified, manifesting this existential perfect to his reality. However, he does not recognize that the “something” that he kills for is the deep fear and hate that he has constantly lived in. Alternatively of blaming society for his transgressions, Larger says that he is what he kills for, defining himself by actions that most folks would be ashamed of. Adopting this mentality of accountability, Larger “felt that he had his destiny in his grasp” (156). Now that he does not let himself to be controlled by society, he feels responsible for his own future and previous. Larger decides to disregard what others feel, separating himself from society by totally accepting his actions and their significance: “He had carried out this. He had brought this all about. In all of his life these two murders have been the most meaningful items that had ever happened to him. He was living, truly and deeply, no matter what other people might think” (239). Bigger has lived his complete life constantly shaped by the fear and hate that society has instilled in him. Even so, he sheds his previous self conscious mindset in order to rid himself of this worry. Wright utilizes this shift to existentialism in order to exhibit Bigger’s wish for identity. In the end, Larger takes responsibility for his actions to escape the social constraints and stereotypes which had always produced him feel inferior and worthless.

Larger adopts an existential view of morality in order to justify his actions and embrace his individuality. Shedding society’s regular view of morality, he creates his own system of ethics primarily based on feeling and intuition in order to justify his actions and identity. He exhibits this by refusing to go to church, saying that “there is absolutely nothing in it,” and that “it do not get ‘em nothing” (339). Church offers security and identity for all of the other black characters in the book, but Larger creates an existential view of morality rather than conforming to his peers’ views. He finds identity not in forgiveness and hope, but rather in the certainty and comfort that he committed the acts of murder with his own totally free will and conscience, and that he is not confined by anybody’s requirements. Furthering his commitment to living in the present, Bigger decides that he wants to “be pleased in this planet, not out of it” (339). Taking complete accountability for his personal actions, he does not want to be wiped of his sins, for he embraces them. With this, Bigger justifies his actions by producing his own set of morals, a single that does not align with society’s.

Whilst Larger could genuinely be the solution of a twisted, racist society, his basic need to have for identity and individualism compels him to totally embrace actions which most would be ashamed of. Richard Wright contrasts existentialism with naturalism and environmental determinism in order to expose the effects of a racist society as effectively as the vital human need to have for identity. Ultimately, Native Son reveals that the natural human desire for energy and superiority usually comes at the expense of other individuals and furthers the reign of hate in the globe.
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