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Book Club Wed Sep 03 2008

Native Son Discussion Questions

Below are the questions we'll use to discuss Richard Wright's Native Son. Feel free to post answers in the comments (spoilers are allowed) or join us on Monday, September 8, when we'll discuss it in person at the Book Cellar.

  • Is Bigger Thomas a character we are supposed to pity or sympathize with? How does the brutality of his acts affect your feelings toward him?

  • What effect does the author create with the opening scene? How does this enhance your knowledge of Bigger's life? What effect, if any, does the black rat add?

  • Was Mary's death an accident or murder? Does Bigger act "smart" in how he attempts to conceal it? Does he have any other real way he could have gotten out of the situation?

  • Is what Bigger does to Bessie worse than what he does to Mary? Do you think he will be tried for his crimes against Bessie?

  • Is Bigger's trial a fair one? How does racism affect the judicial process in the book? What role does the media play in determining "justice"?

  • What role does blindness play in the story? Is there anyone other than Mrs. Dalton that you would say is blind?

  • Much of the story is very monochromatic - Wright describes characters and objects as black or white in many scenes. How does affect your reading of the story?

  • Why does Max choose the line of defense that he does? What are his goals? How does he try to implicate Mr. Dalton as a contributor to the crime?

  • Why does the preacher attempt to bring Bigger closer to God and why does he fail?

  • Has Bigger changed at all by the end of the book? Is there anything to admire about him? Does the author intend for us to relate to Bigger as a human or has he made him an embodiemnt of social and political forces?

  • Does the book seem dated in its depiction of racism? Have we moved beyond the rage and hostility that exists between whites and blacks in the book? Could our culture still produce a figure like Bigger Thomas?

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