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NATIVE SON

by: Richard Wright


Bigger felt an urgency need to hide his growing and deepening feeling of hysteria; he had to get rid of it or else he would succumb to it. He longed for a stimulus powerful enough to focus his attention and drain off energies. These were rhythms of his life: indifference and violence.

--Book One

The moment a situation became so that it excited something in him, he rebelled. That was the way he lived; he passed his days trying to defeat or gratify powerful impulses in a world he feared.

--Book One

These rich folk do their dirt on the sly.

--Book One

In all of the white women he had met, mostly on jobs and at relief stations, there was always a certain coldness and reserve; they stood their distance and spoke to him from afar. But this girl waded right in and hit him between the eyes with her words and ways.

--Book One

I just work. I'm black. I work and I don't bother nobody.

--Book Two

Mr. Dalton was somewhere far away, high up, distant, like a god. He owned property all over the Black Belt, and he owned property where white folks lived, too.

--Book Two

Never in all his life, with this black skin of his, had the two worlds, thought and feeling, will and mind, aspiration and satisfaction, been together; never had he felt a sense of wholeness.

--Book Two

To Bigger and his kind, white people were not really people; they were a sort of great natural force, like a stormy sky looming overhead or like a deep swirling river stretching suddenly at one's feet in the dark.

--Book Two

Rape was not what one did to women. Rape was what one felt when one's back was against a wall and one had to strike out, whether one wanted to or not, to keep the pack from killing one. He committed rape every time he looked into a white face. He was a long, taut piece of rubber which a thousand white hands had stretched to the snapping point, and when he snapped it was rape. But it was rape when he cried out in hate deep in his heart as he felt the strain of living day by day. That, too, was rape.

--Book Two

He had a natural wall from behind which he could look at them. His crime was an anchor weighing him safely in time; it added to him a certain confidence which his gun and knife did not. He was outside his family now, over and beyond them. They were incapable of thinking that he had done such a thing. And he had done something which even he had not thought possible.

--Book Two

Though he felt that he was cut off from them forever, he had a strange hankering for their presence. Like a man reborn, he wanted to test and taste each new thing now to see how it went; like a man risen up well from a long illness.

--Book Two

Though he had killed by accident, not once did he feel the need to tell himself, that it had been an accident. He was black and he had been alone in the room where a white girl had been killed: therefore he had killed her. That was what everyone would say, anyhow, no matter what he said.

--Book Two

During the last two days and nights he had lived so fast and hard that it was an effort to keep it all real in his mind. So close had danger and death come that he could not feel that it was he who had undergone it all. And, yet, out of it all, over and above all that had happened, there remained to him a queer sense of power. Never had he had the chance to live out the consequences of his actions; never had his will been so free as in this night and day of fear and murder and flight.

--Book Two

After he murdered, he accepted the crime. And that's the important thing. It was the first full act of his life; it was the most meaningful, exciting and stirring thing that had ever happened to him. He accepted it because it made him free, gave him the possibility of choice, of action, the opportunity to act and to feel that his actions carried weight.

--Book Three

Do men regret when they kill in war? Does the personality of a soldier coming at you over the top of a trench matter?

--Book Three

The word had become flesh. For the first time in his life a white man become a human being to him; and the reality of Jan's humanity came in a stab of remorse: he had killed what this man loved and had hurt him. He saw Jan as though someone had performed an operation upon his eyes, or as though someone had snatched a deforming mask from Jan's face.

--Book Three

Today Bigger Thomas and that mob are strangers, yet they hate. They hate because they fear, and they fear because they feel that the deepest feelings of their lives are being assaulted and outraged. And they do not know why; they are powerless pawns in a blind play of social forces.

--Book Three

When we said that men are 'endowed with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,' we did not pause to define 'happiness.' That is the unexpressed quality in our quest.

--Book Three

Negroes ... feeling the capacity to be, to live, to act, to pour out the spirit of their souls into concrete and objective form with a high fervor born of their racial characteristics, they glide through our complex civilization like wailing ghosts; they spin like fiery planets lost from their orbits; they wither and die like trees ripped from native soil.

--Book Three

This Negro boy, Bigger Thomas, is a part of a furious blaze of liquid life-energy which once blazed and is still blazing in our land. He is a hot jet of life that spattered itself in futility against a cold wall.

--Book Three

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