Rage & Hate

One of the most problematized aspects of Native Son was Bigger Thomas’ rage and his lack of foundation in his identity as a person. In trying to speak to too many Bigger Thomas characters that Wright encountered in his life, the Bigger Thomas we encountered became a hollow representation with a lumbering and unfocused rage. Through Bigger Thomas, Wright addressed the daily indignities, humiliations and injustices that black people had (and still have) to suffer in America. In “Many Thousands Gone,” James Baldwin writes against the manner in which Wright depicts Bigger Thomas. He states that “it hastens to confine the Negro to the very tones of violence he has known all his life” because it didn’t show Bigger as a unique person or a member of a community. Another one of James Baldwin’s criticism of Native Son was that it cut out a “necessary dimension … the relationship that Negroes bear to another, that depth of involvement and unspoken recognition of shared experience which creates a way of life.” I find Baldwin’s assessment of Native Son interesting since his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain confronts several of the themes found in Native Son.

From the first part of Go Tell It on the Mountain, I can see the themes of faith, religion, morality, race/racism, gender, hatred and identity. All of which were present in Native Son. However, from the beginning of Baldwin’s novel, I can see that rage/anger is going to operate in a different and more controlled manner; maybe through a more internalized way rather than the externalized violence that Bigger exhibited in Native Son. Both the anger that John and Bigger Thomas live with are strong, overwhelming and understandable. I’m curious to see how Baldwin is going to use that rage in a way that doesn’t “confine” John to the same fate as Bigger Thomas.

One thought on “Rage & Hate”

  1. I also noticed the different ways anger and rage were channeled in Go Tell it On the Mountain. I think Baldwin’s representation is more attune to the lived reality of most people. The internalized channeling and controlled reactions Baldwin describes seems to encompass the humanity he thought Wright was lacking.

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