By Richard Wright
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Native Son by Richard Wright ranked # 20 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
Native Son (1940) is a novel by African-American author Richard Wright. It tells the story of 20-year old Bigger Thomas, an African-American of the poorest class, struggling to live in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s.
His life is doomed from the outset: after Bigger accidentally kills a white woman, he runs from the police, kills his girlfriend and is then caught and tried. "I didn't want to kill", Bigger shouted. "But what I killed for, I am! It must've been pretty deep in me to make me kill."
Written mostly in the third person, Wright gets inside the head of "brute Negro" Bigger, revealing his feelings, thoughts and point of view as
he commits crimes, is confronted with racism, violence and debasement.
Wright's protest novel was an immediate best-seller, selling 250,000 hardcover copies in its initial run. It was one of the earliest successful attempts to explain the racial divide in America in terms of the social conditions imposed on African-Americans by the dominant white society.
It also made Wright the wealthiest black writer of his time and established him as a spokesperson for African-American issues, and a "father of Black American literature".
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