Native Son-Fear. Fear is one of the most powerful human emotions. Fear deceives, fear

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1 Kelsey Clews 5/11/06 Mr. Harrell Native Son-Fear Fear is one of the most powerful human emotions. Fear deceives, fear encourages, fear intensifies; but fear is only an emotion. Often we forget in the midst of our fear, we can still maintain control. We have our sense, our intelligence, our unconscious well of memory to rely on when we feel only doubt and despair gripping us. Richard Wright s Native Son creates a character strongly influenced by hate, grief, and fear, giving us an example of what we are all capable of if we allow our emotions to take control. Carl Jung s The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger s Truth and Tolerance further explain the dangers of selfishness and ignorance as we attempt to endure the hardships of our lives. John Milton s Paradise Lost traces the power and pride complication from us to Adam and Eve, explaining that some things never change. Wright uses a stream of consciousness to describe the complexity of thought processing used to make a decision. It shows the process of combining conscious with unconscious thoughts and feelings, in order to come to a complex and often confusing decision. Frequently our conscious thoughts include what we feel in our conscience, including our morals and our related emotions. Because emotions are often confusing, as they are different depending on the person and the given situation, we can make the wrong or immoral decisions if we rely solely on them. The unconscious can also create emotions that we do not notice, although they may help us to come to a conclusion. The

2 contents of the personal unconscious are chiefly the feeling-toned complexes, as they are called; they constitute the personal and private part of psychic life (Jung 4). Our common sense and our consciousness may become clouded or even deceived when we choose to listen to our conscience, our emotions, and the depths of our unconscious thoughts, as they are altered when they are perceived by the conscious. These perceptions become tangible when a stream of consciousness shows every compilation of thoughts that amass to form a decision. In Native Son, Wright pulls us into the emotional and mental confusion of each of Bigger s crimes through describing his stream of consciousness. Both crimes that Bigger commits are results of suppressed anger, discomfort, hate, and anxiety. Notice each of these causes are emotional. Bigger suffocates the drunk daughter of his employer, on accident to keep from being discovered by her blind grandmother as he was helping the girl to her own room. Frantically, he caught the pillow and brought it to her lips. He had to stop her from mumbling, or he would be caught (Wright 85). Bigger s mind becomes a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions which cause him to act rashly and hastily to avoid suspicion and blame for her inebriated state. He clenched his teeth and held his breath, intimidated to the core by the awesome white blur floating towards him. His muscles flexed taught as steel and he pressed the pillow, feeling the bed give slowly, evenly, but silently (Wright 86). Bigger realizes what a horrible thing it is that he has done; the thought that he has the capacity to do such malice affects him deeply. He was not crying, but his lips were trembling and his chest was heaving. He wanted to lie down upon the floor and sleep off the horror of this thing. But he had to get out of here (Wright 91).

3 Jungian theory proposes the existence of certain archetypes in our unconscious mind. The archetype is essentially an unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, and it takes its colour from the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear. (Jung 5). The archetype of the shadow represents the confrontation of ourselves. This confrontation is the first test of courage on the inner way, a test sufficient to frighten off most people, for the meeting with ourselves belongs to the more unpleasant things... (Jung 20). This shadow reveals our ignorance of our deep desires, our deepest thoughts, our deepest fears, and our selfishness. But if we step through the door of the shadow we discover with terror that we are the objects of unseen factors. To know this is decidedly unpleasant, for nothing is more disillusioning than the discovery of our own inadequacy (Jung 23). Bigger attempts to hide or run away from each of his problems, never taking responsibility for his actions, recognizing his recklessness. After telling his girl, Bessie, of his crime, they flee. As the police draw nearer to them, Bigger rapes and kills Bessie to keep her from talking about the crime. He stuffs her dead body down a chimney, but because he was scared and anxious he leaves all of his money in her dress pocket, showing the irresponsibility that comes with making hasty, emotional, selfish decisions. When speaking with his lawyer in prison Bigger says, I killed her to keep her from talking. Mr. Max, after killing that white girl, it wasn t hard to kill somebody else. I didn t have to think much about killing Bessie. I knew I had to kill her and I did. I had to get away... (Wright 352). His state of mind becomes so twisted and nervous that doing something else just as bad seems like a natural thing to him. Bigger s life becomes such a hell hole that every bad deed becomes a normality, even a necessity. The

4 shadow that Bigger meets after his first crime becomes distorted and misused. He twists his shadow into power, into a security blanket he feels he can hide the hate and the fear under. Bigger s original fear comes from the racial judgments and discriminations of the white majority of society. He understands that it is unacceptable for white men and women to associate with black males and females. His fear of being ridiculed or accused of something he did not do causes him to commit those crimes which were considered typical of a black man. Yeah; I reckon it was because I knew I oughtn t ve wanted to. I reckon it was because they say we black men do that anyhow (Wright 351). The stereotypes that black men were fitted to also caused resentment and hate for the way they felt they were being forced to live. They draw a line and say for you to stay on your side of the line. They don t care if there s no bread over on your side. They don t care if you die. I don't have to do nothing for em to get me. (Wright 351).Bigger had always believed that he would live in poverty, in grief, despair, and contempt for the rest of his life, never amounting to anything worthy of attention or praise; that was until his first murder. Every thought in Bigger s mind revolves around the fear and contempt he has for his life, himself as a minority, and his notion of unworthiness. Of course these stereotypes do not fit the majority of the people they are applied to, but because they are so widely accepted as the truth, even the minorities believe them. Bigger s false sense of power and security become his wall from the fear of oppression and worthlessness, however it drove him to act more and more unrealistically, as the wall only separates him from his sense, real values, and true morality. We look to our morals and our conscience for a more comforting proposal of

5 action. Here we run into yet another problem, as the morals of all humans are false and differing. Instead of relating everyone s differences into an inclusive judgment based on the absolute truth of morality, we judge through pluralism, which ultimately denies the unity of mankind and denies the dynamic of history, which is a process of various unions (Ratzinger 81). Our values become personalized over time after misperceiving some collective unconscious thoughts, delineating from the true absolute values of Christ and our collective unconscious...he, as God s creative word, is the truth of all things and all men (Ratzinger 81). Therefore any judgments that we make based on our personalized morals or values are false. Until we unite with our collective unconscious knowledge of truth as Christ has distilled in us, no thought or decision can be truly correct, and we remain part of a fallen world. Bigger s fear of his capacity for evil and fear for his future soon become a false sense of power. Bigger feels he has given his life purpose, has stepped above what everyone thought was his potential, he is finally awakened to the real meaning of his life. The hidden meaning of his life- a meaning which others did not see and which he had always tried to hide- had spilled out. (Wright 106). Now that the ice was broken, could he not do other things? What was there to stop him? While sitting there at the table waiting for his breakfast, he felt that he was arriving at something which had long eluded him (Wright 106). In retracing his actions post-crime, Bigger begins to feel self confident. This is of course a false sense of confidence, for he finds it in his fear and hate after committing crimes. The thought of what he had done, the awful horror of it, the daring associated with such actions, formed for him for the first time in his fear ridden life a barrier of protection between him and a world he feared. He had murdered and had

6 created a new life for himself (Wright 105). Paradise Lost demonstrates the treachery of the temptation of power. Eve and Adam lived a life full of morality with the absolute truth of God, and pure love. It is not until Eve is tempted with the power and knowledge of God, her creator, that she becomes selfish, questioning the possibility of increasing her power to that of God s. Bigger is also tempted, more unconsciously, to prove his power and reach a higher potential. Although he does not live in Paradise, rather far from it, Bigger could have made something else of his life. He was setting himself up beautifully to live a responsible, respectable life out of trouble, with good people, and in a beautiful house. His anger and jealousy of his employers became too much for him too handle, as he loses control of his common sense, allowing his emotions of self righteousness and fear to control in. His desire for more power, recognition, and fame seeped through his fingers as he pushed the pillow harder and harder over Mary s mouth. His need for knowledge and power eventually led to his fall, as he then rapes and kills his girlfriend on the run, living the rest of his short life wallowing in a state of confusion, knowing all he has left is death. Bigger, as well as Eve, immediately blames his crimes on his victims. Eve blamed her and Adam s fall on the serpent who tempted her, where Bigger blames his hate and fear on every white person in the community. I hated her as soon as she spoke to me, as soon as I saw her, I reckon I hated her before I saw her. What her kind ever let us do? (Wright 352). He believed that he never had and never would get a chance to be anyone, or do anything important. Bigger had been hateful and ignorant all his life of the white people in his society, blaming them for every hardship, every despairing thought, and his complete lack of hope and ambition. In prison, when he was explaining the reasons of his

7 crimes to his lawyer, Bigger stated, Pretty soon you get so you can t hope for nothing. You ain t a man no more, you just work day in and day out so the world can roll on and other people can live. They choke you off the face of the earth. They don t even let you feel what you want to feel. Bigger is sentenced to death, and although he understands why he deserves this punishment, he never lets go of the burning contempt he holds in his heart for all the white people above him. Hate and fear often spawn situations we trap ourselves in. We can easily become slaves to our emotions, to our selfishness, but it is much harder to resist temptation and bring ourselves back to our senses. Richard Wright s Bigger Thomas takes the easy way, imploding it into a new, false sense of security, comfort, and power. Carl Jung s idea of twisted perception explains what Bigger s and everyone else s emotions have the capability to do. As Milton and Ratzinger have explained, fear, hate, and power result in separation from others as well as from ourselves. I pledge my honor as a student that I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this assignment. Works Cited

8 Wright, Richard. Native Son. Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. New York, NY Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Truth and Tolerance. Ignatius Press, San Francisco Jung, Carl. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ Milton, John. Paradise Lost. W.W.Norton & Company, Inc. New York, 2005.

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