Native Son by Richard Wright Book Review
Emotions are how we interact with the world; the emotions we feel each day compel us to take action and influence the decisions we make in our lives. However, when given a challenging situation, the majority of us lose control of our emotions, altering our perception of society, and expressing ourselves in unhealthy ways; Bigger Thomas is no exception. As a behavioral psychologist, Deborah Rozeman quotes, “if you don't manage your emotions, then your emotions will manage you.” In the story Native Son, Richard Wright manifests Rozeman’s idea by bringing attention to Bigger’s emotions to highlight Bigger’s inability to control his reactions.
Wright incorporates specific diction to explain Bigger’s changing emotions. In the opening sentences, Wright explains, since the Blum heist is already planned, it is something Bigger “[has] to go through with.” In this sentence, Wright accomplishes two things. He first points out the oxymoron of Bigger lecturing himself that he “has to” do the heist -- even though Bigger was the person who demanded the group do the job -- to bring attention to Bigger’s mishandling of his emotions. Secondly, the reality of going through with the heist causes Bigger to develop a “cold sweat.” The synesthesia insinuates that anxiety is overwhelming Bigger, painting the idea that he doesn’t have a hold on the river that is his emotions.
Additionally, Wright uses comparisons to suggest Bigger has no jurisdiction over his emotions. Bigger feels like he has no influence over his own path; he refers to an “invisible force” pulling him towards a certain ending, emphasizing a feeling of helplessness and lack of control. Wright also compares Bigger to a strange plant that is “blooming in the day and withers at night.” Using natural occurrences -- day and night -- as the primary factors of his emotions, Wright reiterates how Bigger has no influence over his emotions and how his emotions are constantly shifting -- just like day and night. Wright notes the extremities of Bigger’s emotions; swinging from one extreme to another, Bigger lacks dominion over his feelings. Lastly, Wright uses a simile to highlight Bigger’s inability to regulate his own emotions. “Like water [his emotions were] ebbing and flowing from the tug of a far-away, invisible force.” Wright draws the similarity between Bigger’s emotions and water: like water, Bigger’s emotions are fluid and constantly shifting. Both comparisons affirm Bigger’s lack of authority over his emotions. Acknowledging multiple outside forces: the “invisible hand” or “day [and]... night” that manipulate his reactions and his decision making prove Bigger’s feelings are subject to an outside force; not himself.
Due to his lack of composure, Bigger develops a sense of fear. Wright bluntly states,“[Bigger] wanted to run.” This short sentence, in contrast to the long one preceding it, brings abrupt attention to how Bigger continuously avoids facing his problematic emotion— fear— by just “run[ning] away.” Moreover, Bigger wants to divert attention from his nervousness with “a stimulus powerful enough to… drain off his energies.” The overarching theme is reached when Wright notes, “Confidence could only come again now through action so violent that it would make him forget.” Implying, Bigger uses his fearfulness as an outlet for his lack of control. When overwhelmed by various emotions, Bigger finds distractions in order to displace said emotions. Instead of learning to control them, Bigger avoids the issue entirely and shifts his attention to another stimulus. This blatant rejection of his feelings continues to show he lacks the ability to control his emotions.
Manifestations of anxiety and fear are a cornerstone of the human psyche. An individual's angst, the internal push and pull, the battles of consciousness happen to all of us. However, the manner in which we deal with these emotions — confront or avoid them— can have drastic effects on our actions. Richard Wright makes a point of emphasis around how Bigger’s inability to check his emotions, therefore commanding his reactions.