Dr. Samuel Obed Doku

Foreign Author

Howard University

Washington, DC

United States of America


Although many critics see Richard Wright’s Native Son as an American classic novel, it is by no means a master narrative that attempts to provide a mega solution to the problems of the black man in American society. Instead, Wright uses the novel to protest against the naturalistic conditions that emasculate a young black man, Bigger Thomas, in 1930s Chicago to commit two murders, one accidentally and the other by design, for which he is sentenced to die.  In his poem, “A Dream Deferred,” Langston Hughes poses a mind-bogglingly critical question: “What Happens to a Dream Deferred?” Thomas, the disturbed protagonist in Wright’s Native Son, has an ambition of becoming a pilot, but fear effaces Thomas’s dream of a better future for him and his mother and presumably, defers his dream to a future date. However, his dream turns into a nightmare, and instead of a pilot, he becomes a cold-blooded murderer. The tension between hope and fear, optimism and pessimism in Thomas is a stark antinomy that should have provided the protagonist a liminal space within which to operate toward a successful resolution of his internal conflict. In this essay, I argue that Thomas’s hope could have propelled him to the pinnacle of success on the scala d’amore to achieve entelechy, but instead, he chooses the antithetical direction, due to his dearth confidence in the system, and that turns out to be tragic.

Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas: Scala d’Amore, Entelechy, and Antinomian Equilibrium in Native Son pdf