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The novel centres on the American racial discrimination that was existent before the Civil Rights Movement. Discrimination still remains a reality, even in modern America. The novel dates back to the 1930s, and it depicts the existing tribulations of a young black man called Bigger Thomas. During a moment of panic, he murdered a wealthy woman as he tried to silence her with a pillow. He feared that his girl friend would expose him, so he ended up committing the second murder in an attempt to hide the first murder (Acuna 112). Although the premise seems extreme, the author states that the situation was real and told the reader about the life during that era. The laws which were in action during the period mandated racial segregation through the systems of social control that created a clear divide between blacks and whites. Most of public amenities were distinguishable by colour. For example, schools, busses and restaurants were just few of the public amenities separated by colour. Moreover, it was considered to be a black person’s duty to give up his/ her seat on public transport to a white. The common subtle laws even went to the extent of creating social etiquette, according to which, the black were addressed as blacks and the whites as whites. Anybody found going against the rules was punished under the punitive law. Moreover, given the fact that blacks were perceived negatively as those being dangerous, they were more and more often connected to negative deeds in the society.
In the effort of developing the plot of the book, the author tries to bring out the meaning of the character’s name - Bigger Thomas. He stipulates that Bigger Thomas refers to all of his friends who have accidentally met their demise. This is because these people refused to accept the racial discrimination. “Bigger” in this novel concerns a multitude of people, both whites and blacks, trapped within the racial divide. The cause of the existing anxieties they experienced was the exclusion from the society because of their regulated low incomes, as well as poor social economic status (Bloom 56). These people had less say and authority over issues. The lack of social influence and voice changed their destiny as they were under the ruling of the American capitalistic generation.
The author of the novel engages literary devices of motif and symbolism to bring out the underlying theme of America’s racial divide. This racial divide germinated into different forms of violence which finally culminated in the generation of volatile atmosphere (Wallenfeldt 87). The alarm clock that rings in the novel is crucial in waking up the American citizens who are still asleep and ironically lulled into accepting their status, in support of discrimination.
In conclusion, the time setting of the novel is particularly essential. In the society of that time, which is the 1930s, racism was not even disguised. Moreover, it was legal. As the reader can see in the novel, Bigger did not participate in different opportunities because of his racial background. The racial divide is also observable from the segregation of the army. Black soldiers had to do difficult or humiliating jobs such as mopping the floors. Bigger did not have the chance to become a pilot. Furthermore, it was the southern side of Chicago where the black people lived. Finally, by placing the native son in this era, the author tries to reveal the negative effects of the racial discrimination. He also attempts to achieve the understanding of the negative impact the social discrimination has on the lives of people.