Native Son

Wright, Richard

Harper Perennial, 1993

p. 294

Bigger Thomas is a black man in Chicago in the 1930s. He has killed a white woman. In his flight from authorities, Bigger Thomas encounters a black church where folks are singing “Steal away. Steal away. Steal away to Jesus.” “This was his mother’s world. Deal with the harshness of life by stealing away to Jesus. Take your shame and your hurt and all the ways whites humiliate you and give them to Jesus and look for a better world, since this world isn’t our home and we’re just a’passin through. Wouldn’t he have been better off if he had lived in this other world, his mother’s world, instead of standin’ on corners with his friends and doing petty thefts . . . ? It would have been easy to have lived in [this other world], for it was his mother’s world, humble, contrite, believing. It had a center, a core, an axis, a heart which he needed but could never have unless he laid his head upon a pillow of humility and gave up hope of living in the world. And he would never do that.”

pp. 359 - 360

After Bigger confesses to the cops, despairing of making them feel how he had felt about what he had done, how it seemed to him that he was trapped into his action, he lies on the floor and sobs. A Negro preacher had tried to get Bigger to pray. But he did not want to “lose face with the world which had first evoked in him the song of manhood. He feared and hated the preacher because the preacher had told him to bow down and ask for a mercy he knew he needed; but his pride would never let him do that, not this side of the grave, not while the sun shone.”

p. 411

To Bigger eternal life is ‘for whipped folks.’