Family Matters In “Native Son”
Moms are the best.
Just think: Without Moms, where would be? Not here likely. Scratch that–we’d definitely not be here. I guess Dads have something to do with that, too, but Moms are so much cooler. At least most of them.
In Native Son, Bigger Thomas’ Mom is an amazing woman who does everything she can for her son–only to see him reduced to a life of laziness, street crime, and eventually murder. His actions wear on her to that point that, by the end of the novel, she almost seems incapable of living because of how he has treated her.
So, one of my many beefs with the character Bigger Thomas is the way his treats his mother. This passage highlight both Bigger’s feelings towards his family and his mother’s feelings towards him.
He had lived and acted on the assumption that he was alone, and now he saw that he had not been. What he had done made others suffer. No matter how much he would long for them to forget him, they would not be able to. His family was a part of him, not only in blood, but in spirit. . . .
“I’m praying for you, son. That’s all I can do now,” [Bigger’s mother] said. “The Lord knows I did all I could for you and and your sister and brother. I scrubbed and washed and ironed from morning till night, day in and day out, as long as I had strength in my old body. I did all I know how, son, and if I left anything undone, it’s just ’cause I didn’t know. It’s just ’cause your poor old ma couldn’t see, son. When I heard the news of what happened, I got on my knees and turned my eyes to God and asked him if I had raised you wrong. I asked him Him to let me bear your burden if I did wrong by you. Honey, your poor old ma can’t do nothing now. I’m old and this is too much for me. I’m at the end of my rope.”
As a guy, I can say that few things in life make us feel more like a loser than disappointing our mother, to be told “this is too much for me. I’m at the end of my rope.” That’s tough.
So it’s official: Bigger Thomas is a loser.
This novel is a wonderful example of the power that family holds over us–whether we want it or not, whether we came from The Duggars, The Cleavers, or The Osbournes. They are going to affect us–for better or for worse.
Any other examples of the influence of family–specifically Moms–in literature?