The funeral was held on Baldwin’s birthday, and he spent the day drinking whisky with a female friend and wondering what to wear because he did not own any black clothes. His friend eventually found him a black shirt. At the church, Baldwin reflected that his aunt, who fought with his father throughout his life, was one of the only people who had a real connection with him. During the eulogy, Baldwin notes that the preacher was not describing his father as he really was, but rather inviting the congregation to forgive his father, reminding them that they did not know the full truth of what he suffered. Someone began singing one of Baldwin’s father’s favorite songs, and suddenly Baldwin was transported to a memory of sitting on his father’s lap in church. He recalls that his father used to show off Baldwin’s singing voice to others when he was young. He remembers their fights, and the only time in which they “had really spoken to each other.” Just before Baldwin left home, his father asked him if he’d “rather write than preach,” and Baldwin replied, simply, “Yes.” Baldwin did not want to see his father’s body in the casket, but had no choice but to go and look. Baldwin felt that his father looked like any “old man dead,” and notes the strange proximity of the body to his newborn child.
This passage is a cathartic and redemptive moment in an otherwise bleak essay. Baldwin’s inability to find suitable clothes, his sense that the preacher is not being honest, and his reluctance to see his father’s body all create the impression that he is alienated from his father and from the process of mourning him. However, at the same time he experiences a sudden sense of connection to his father through the experience of hearing the song. This in turn leads him to remember their only moment of true communication. Although it is tragic that this moment was so fleeting, there is also beauty in the fact that Baldwin recalls it at all, alongside other happy memories of his father’s life. The presence of his father’s youngest child, a newborn baby, creates a sense of hope. Although Baldwin’s father is gone, part of him lives on through his children, who may experience some of the joy and freedom that he was denied.
Native Son Essay: Analysis of Setting, Major, and Minor Themes
1775 Words8 Pages
Analysis of Setting, Major, and Minor Themes of Native Son
The major themes of Native Son are
environment, racism, black rage, religion, Communism, determinism
and freedom. A minor theme is the relationship between men and women.
One of the major themes of Native Son is the effect of
environment on behavior and personality. Thus, setting is
especially important in the novel. The story takes place in Chicago in
the late 1930s, when the United States had still not recovered from
the Great Depression. Jobs are scarce, and Bigger and his pool-hall
friends are among the many unemployed. Richard Wright was influenced
by the literary…show more content…
The striking contrast between their impressive mansion and the
Thomases' one-room "kitchenette" apartment illustrates Bigger's
It does appear, however, that the courtroom and jailhouse settings
of Book Three are less realistic than the settings of Books One
and Two, perhaps because Wright himself was less
familiar with those environments. And, though few would contest that
the hardships of life in Chicago's Black Belt were as oppressive as
Wright portrayed them, some readers point out that the urban ghetto
was also a place of opportunity for blacks by comparison to the Deep
South, from which most of them had migrated. For example, in
Chicago, Wright found the respect and encouragement that he had
never experienced in rural Mississippi. But in Native Son, Wright
doesn't seem to acknowledge that Chicago could hold out any hope at
all for a poor black youth. Finally, many whites in Depression-era
Chicago lived in poverty too, but because Bigger does not come into
contact with them, they do not form part of this novel.
Despite their realism, the settings of Native Son also function