Native Son Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Native Son

Bigger Thomas is a young black man in Chicago who scrapes by at the bottom of society until one day he inadvertently kills a white woman. Bigger Thomas is a troubled young man living in Chicago's South side in the 1930's. He is black and uneducated, deeply fearful and angry at the white culture that presses down on people like him. He makes his money through menial labor and robbery. He has never had the courage to steal from white people, only from small black-run businesses near his neighborhood. When his gang decides to rob a white-operated store, he panics and beats one of his fellow gang-members so the plan will have to be called off. Ostracized from this group, Bigger is forced to become a driver for a rich Chicago family, the Daltons. Mr. Dalton owns most of the houses in the South Side. Because blacks are not allowed to rent in other parts of the city, people like Bigger have to pay inflated rent prices for the slummy housing that they are allowed to take up. Mr. Dalton fancies himself a philanthropist, though, because he donates to black schools. Dalton's daughter Mary and her Communist boyfriend Jan take up with Bigger. They want to prove their progressiveness and coerce him into taking them to a bar in his neighborhood. The three get really drunk. Bigger drives Mary home and tries to take advantage of the drunk girl. Suddenly, Mary's blind mother appears in the doorway. She doesn't see Bigger, but he fears that Mary will give him away, so he puts a pillow over her face. The mother stands at the bedside and offers a prayer for her daughter as Bigger is slowly smothering her. When the mother leaves and Bigger discovers that he has accidentally killed the girl, he burns her body in the large family furnace. When the girl is missing, Bigger easily plays the part of the ignorant, meek black servant and is not suspected. He attempts to extort ransom money and implicate Jan in the same motion, but his girlfriend seems like she is going to give him away. He rapes her and kills her in her sleep. Bigger evades capture during the manhunt that follows, but is eventually captured after the authorities tear apart the South Side looking for him. In the following trial, Bigger is portrayed by the defense as a product of his environment, to be pitied. He is nonetheless sentenced to death.
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Best scene in story: The scene where Mary's mother appears like a ghost in the room, not seeing Bigger, is so suspenseful, especially as the reader realizes that the frightened Bigger doesn't realize he is smothering Mary.

The review of this Book prepared by Andrew Black a Level 5 American Goldfinch scholar

Chapter Analysis of Native Son

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Ethnic/Regional/Religion    -   Black people in America/Europe Crime & Police story    -   Yes Story of    -   catching a killer Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Ethnic/regional/gender life    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   accused criminal Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Black (American)


United States    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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