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Free Study Guide-Native Son by Richard Wright-Free Online Book Notes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The novel is set during the 1930s in the United States. It centers around three locations. First, the Black Belt of Chicago, that is, the section of town occupied by African American people concentrated there because of discriminatory housing and renting practices which forbid them outside a particular section of the city. The second part of the novel is set in an upper-class district occupied exclusively by white people. The third part of the novel is set in a courtroom in and the Cook County Jail.

CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Bigger Thomas is a twenty year old African American man. He is a petty criminal until he gets a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family. He accidentally kills the daughter of the family and ultimately rapes and kills his own girlfriend. He is put on trial for the rape and murder of both women.

Minor Characters

Mrs. Thomas

Bigger's mother. She is a hard-working woman who places all her hope in her Christian faith to solve the problems of her social and economic situation.


Vera Thomas

Bigger's younger sister.

Buddy Thomas

Bigger's younger brother.

Gus

Bigger's friend, with whom Bigger engages in petty crimes.

G.H.

Bigger's friend, with whom Bigger engages in petty crimes.

Jack

Bigger's friend, with whom Bigger engages in petty crimes.

Peggy

The Dalton's housekeeper.

Mr. Dalton

Bigger's employer who also owns the South Side Real Estate Company which discriminates against African Americans, forcing them to remain within a prescribed section of the city called the Black Belt. Also, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A white liberal.

Mrs. Dalton

Bigger's employer. She is blind.

Mary Dalton

The daughter of the Daltons, whom Bigger kills.

Jan Erlone

Mary Dalton's boyfriend and a member of the communist party. Bigger frames him for the murder of Mary Dalton. When he is found to be innocent, he befriends Bigger.

Mr. Britten

A private investigator hired by the Daltons to find their missing daughter, Mary. He is a crude racist and anti-semite.

Bessie Mears

Bigger's girlfriend. Bigger involves her in the botched attempt to get kidnapping ransom money from the Daltons and then he rapes and kills her.

Boris Max

The defense attorney for Bigger Thomas, also a member of the Communist Party.

David Buckley

The State's attorney who prosecutes the murder cases against Bigger.

Reverend Hammond

A minister who attempts to convert Bigger before he is put to death.

Justice Hanly

The judge for Bigger's trial.

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