Native Son Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Native Son: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. "I'd soon as go to jail than take that damn relief job." p.32
    Bigger utters this to Jack in the movies when he debates whether or not she should accept the job as the Dalton's chauffeur. He wants options and opportunities in life, yet he simultaneously resists them.
  2. "The moment a situation became so that it excited something in him, he rebelled. That was the way he lived; he passed his days trying to defeat or gratify powerful impulses in a world he feared." p. 44
    Bigger comes to realize that he picked a fight with his friend Gus out of fear of robbing the white storekeeper, Blum. But this insight is a momentary flash of knowledge that he quickly dismisses.
  3. "He had a natural wall from behind which he could look at them. His crime was an anchor weighing him safely in time; it added to him a certain confidence which his gun and knife did not. He was outside his family now, over and beyond them. They were incapable of thinking that he had done such a thing. And he had done something which even he had not thought possible." p. 102
    After he meets with his gang, Bigger realizes how far he has come. He recognizes he cannot go backwards, cannot go home, and is amazed at his own power.
  4. "Though he had killed by accident, not once did he feel the need to tell himself, that it had been an accident. He was black and he had been alone in the room where a white girl had been killed: therefore he had killed her. That was what everyone would say, anyhow, no matter what he said." p. 102
    In Doc's pool hall, Bigger reflects on his life as a black man in America. He also realizes that Mary's death had been a fulfillment of his earlier desires or "will to kill."
  5. "Though he felt that he was cut off from them forever, he had a strange hankering for their presence. Like a man reborn, he wanted to test and taste each new thing now to see how it went; like a man risen up well from a long illness." p. 106
    After Bigger wakes up the morning after killing Mary Dalton, he experiences a feeling of exhilaration, of rebirth.
  6. "To Bigger and his kind, white people were not really people; they were a sort of great natural force, like a stormy sky looming overhead or like a deep swirling river stretching suddenly at one's feet in the dark." p. 109
    After meeting his friends at the drug store, Bigger attempts to get the image of Mary Dalton out of his mind, and justifies his heinous actions, even going so far as to think she made him murder her.
  7. "He felt that he had his destiny in his grasp. He was more alive then he could ever remember having been: his attention and mind were pointed, focused toward the goal." p. 141
    After killing Mary Dalton, Bigger feels more confident than he ever has in his life. He denies the inner voice and visions of the electric chair; pride pushes him to continue in his destructive path.
  8. "I just work. I'm black. I work and I don't bother nobody." p. 170
    Bessie cries out to Bigger after he admits to her that he killed Mary Dalton.
  9. "Although he could not put it into words, he knew not only had they resolved to put him to death, but they were determined to make his death mean more than a mere punishment; that they regarded him as a figment of that black world which they feared and were anxious to keep under control." p. 257
    After he is captured and incarcerated Bigger meets the mob at the inquest and realizes fully that everyone is against him.
  10. "Bigger felt that he was sitting and holding his life helplessly in his hands, waiting for Max to tell him what to do with it; and it made him hate himself. An organic wish to cease to be, to stop living, seized him. Either he was too weak, or the world was too strong; he did not know which. Over and over he had tried to create a world to live in and over and over he had failed. Now once again he was waiting for someone to tell him something; once more, he was poised on the verge of action and commitment." p. 319
    Bigger, who has never made a true intimate connection, wants more than anything to connect with another human being. He wants Max to explain to him the bafflement and confusion he feels about his existence.


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