Identity in Richard Wright’s Native Son and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

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Identity in Richard Wright’s Native Son and Alice Walker’s The Color PurplePersonal identity is vital to living a worthwhile life. A person who goes through life without knowing what he or she stands for and believes in is living an incomplete life. Those who lack an understanding of their identity will unintentionally accept outsiders’ opinions and stereotypes of them. This harmful position can be seen in many characters from the African-American Literature class. Bigger Thomas, from Richard Wright’s, Native Son, is one lost character. Another character who lacks understanding is Alice Walker’s Celie, from The Color Purple. Both of these characters have a different awareness level of the position that they stand in, and that level changes throughout their respective stories as they attempt to determine what is of importance to them.

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Bigger Thomas is one character, yet he represents the condition of numerous people. Richard Wright manifested his character from various people that he encountered and rolled all of those interactions and emotions into one character. One reason that the name “Bigger” is very appropriate for this character is that the name prevents the readers from limiting the character to one person. The name represents more of a complex than a person. This complex includes all young colored men who do not see how they fit into the big picture of society.

Bigger does not know what his identity is. He did not receive an abundance of love and support as a child to give him the crucial confidence needed for him to fight for a position in life. Instead, he followed into the stereotypical roles for a poor black man on the streets of Chicago. Bigger often was in trouble with the law. He stole from stores and carried weapons on him. He got into fights with the guys who he hung out with. He did not have a job even though his family had very little to survive economically. These are all traits of the “bad Negro,” which is another reasoning for the name “Bigger.”

If Bigger had more confidence in what he could accomplish with his abilities, he would challenge the rules that keep him out of the flight school.


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