Thursday, December 29, 2011

native son vs. raisin in the sun

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The Native Son, by Richard Wright, and Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, express similar themes through the characters Bigger and Walter. The different ways they pursue their dreams, face society, and deal their living conditions lead to different resolutions; the improvement of the life of Walter and the downfall of Bigger. In Raisin in the Sun, Walter and his family deal with their issues together as a unit. On the other hand, in The Native Son, Bigger deals with all his problems by himself, so he fails. In Walter’s case, his “ dream deferred” “crust[s] and sugar[s] over” because his family helps him. Differently, Bigger’s “dream deferred” is like a bomb because it “explode[s]” killing him and the people around him (Hughes).

Walter and Bigger both have to cope with their living conditions. They are both living in Chicago with little money. In each of their houses there are holes in the rug because they do not have the money to mend them. The difference between Walter’s situation and Bigger’s situation is that he is the only one who earns money in his house besides his mother. This puts a lot of pressure on Bigger to support the household because all the Thomas possess is a “quarter” (1). On the other hand, Walter has Bennie, Mama, and Ruth to help him support the family, so he is not alone in his toils. Walter and Bigger want to have more money in their possession. Walter says that money “is life” because people need money to do everything (74). The difference between the two is that Walter wants to make his money legally, through investments, while Bigger wants to make his money whichever way that is easiest. Bigger plans to send a ransom note to the Daltons’ instead of just working to make his money. Because of his illegal actions, Bigger ends up facing a severe punishment when he is caught. Walter and Bigger do not have the opportunity to get a higher-level education also. The only blacks that are able to go to college are the blacks that are born rich. George from Raisin in the Son is the only black person in the two books that attended college. Bennie wants to go to college, but because Walter loses her money she will not be able to. Also, Bigger does not live at home with his family after gets a job as a chauffeur. This is a problem for Bigger because the Daltons are white. His refusal to rob Blum’s store shows he is scared of white people because they hold higher social standings than him. The way he acts clearly shows that he is “afraid of” robbing Blum’s (). This leads to him becoming irrational and extremely violent. After Gus challenges Bigger, Bigger becomes upset because his cowardice is revealed. He contemplates stabbing and hurting Gus “for making him feel this way” (7). Because of his anger and frustration he ends up killing Mary in his moment of panic. On the contrary, when Walter comes home from work depressed his family tries to help him out. His mother does things for him, like giving him some of her money that he wants because she knows it will make him happy. Bigger does not have this kind support at home. It can then be deduced that Bigger and Walter have similar living conditions, but Walter deals with his much better than Bigger does.

Society creates many problems for Walter and Bigger. White people are the opressive people in the time period the books take place in. They like being at the top of the social ladder and want to keep it that way. In Raisin in the Sun, Linder tries to buy the house that the Youngers have bought because he knows that if the Youngers move in to his neighborhood, there will be problems. He says to Walter “What do you think you are going gain by moving into a neighborhood where you just aren’t wanted” (11). Linder is talking about how there have been recent bombings in neighborhoods with white and black people. White people do not want any black people into their neighborhoods because soon more black people will move in. Similarly, the Thomas’ tenant, Mr. Dalton rents apartment rooms out selectively. He rents out his more disheveled apartments in the poorer section of the city out to blacks only. He does not let blacks move into any other apartments. Walter and Bigger are both presented with opportunities to exploit this. Linder offers to buy the Youngers’ house at a “financial gain to the family” (118). If Walter accepts this offer, he would be admitting that he is not good enough to move into that neighborhood because he is black. He does not sell his house though because he does not let white society control him like that. Similarly, all the white people around Bigger see him as dumb because he is black. The police’s interrogator does not initially press Bigger a lot for information because it is thought that Bigger does not have any. Because of this, Bigger has an opportunity to exploit them. He takes this opportunity by sending a ransom note to the Daltons demanding money. He thinks that no one will expect him to be the one to send the note, because to whites he is just like “all other colored folks” (14). Because Bigger tries to be more “white” by playing games with the whites, he ended up getting caught and sentenced to death. Bigger and Walter are both unable to get decent jobs because white people will not hire them. The most both of them become are chauffeurs. This causes much anxiety for Walter and Bigger. It creates a drive in both of them to get money at any cost. Bigger is willing to go out and to rob stores to get money. Similarly in The Native Son Walter gives away all of his money and Bennie’s money to Willy Harris because he is so desperate to make money. His family forgives him because he only was dealing with blacks. On the other hand, Bigger is punished because he deals with whites. He is only charged with the murder of Mary at his trial. He is not charged with the murder of Bessie because she is black and therefore insignificant. Bigger and Walter are different because Bigger assimilates himself into white society, while Walter does not.

In pursuit of their dreams, Walter and Bigger face many complications. Both Walter and Bigger have dreams that they cannot attain. They both want money and to fly and be free. Both Bigger and Walter detest their jobs as chauffeurs because it is like being a slave. Bigger wants to be an airplane pilot instead of a chauffeur. This symbolizes him wanting to be lifted off the ground and into the air. It is clear that Walter wants to fly because he sings about having wings. He sings “I got wings” after Mama gives him the money because he wants to show that he appreciates the opportunity he is given (1). He is grateful because money is an opportunity for him to invest in a business. Without opportunity, Walter is so miserable that his marriage with Ruth starts to sour. Mama says to Walter that she has “seen [her] family falling apart today” (4). Out of concern for her child Mama decides to give Walter the money. However, Bigger gets no such aid from his friends or family. Everything he does to try to make money he does himself. Since he is facing all his obstacles in pursuit of his dream by himself, he turns to drastic measures to try to obtain money. When Bigger is with his gang he tries to steal money from white people like Old Blum. Also, he tries to get money by sending a ransom note to the Daltons’. Bigger receives the death penalty at the end of the novel because of his uncontrollable anger. He thinks Bessie will jeopardize his chance to get money so he resorts to killing her. Both Walter and Bigger have to deal with their own frustration. They are both frustrated because they do not have enough power over there own lives. Walter wants the money from Mama to get the power he needs. She gives it to him, showing that she supports him, and says he is “the head of the family from now on” (107). . After he receives the money and the position of head of the household, he becomes satisfied. On the other hand, Bigger wants power over the white people who oppress him. He decides he wants to gain that power by exploiting Dalton through a ransom note. Bigger loses in his struggle for power though, because he is alone. Walter and Bigger both fail to achieve their dreams of wealth, but Walter ends up being well off because his family supports him in achieving his dreams.

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Walter and Bigger both have dreams that are pursued, but not achieved. Walter’s life ends up improving though because he has the support of his family, he sticks to the old morals of his father, and he does not let white society scare him into submission. Walter is more under control in Raisin in the Sun because of these things. Bigger on the other hand; does not have the support of the family, he becomes an assimilationist by playing white games, and he lets white society scare him into rash actions. Bigger is unable to control his actions or his emotions. He breaks down in moments of panic and just gets himself into more trouble. He does not look at things logically like Walter does. Walter plays by the rules of society while Bigger tries to bend them. In the end of Raisin in the Sun, Walter still ends up having things he wants. The Youngers still move into the house they want so desperately. Also, Walter is the head of his household, so he is happy. Bigger on the other hand, lost his life and ended up with nothing. Both of these works show how brutal the 10’s were for black people. The Native Son shows how a black person falls against society and A Raisin In the Sun shows how a black person survives against society. Walter ended up improving his life while Bigger ended up dead because of the way they dealt with their hardships.

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