Richard Wright proposes that utter poverty and societal racism lead to criminal activity in "Native Son" (which is still powerful, not to mention controversial, more than 70 years after it was written).
“Owing to the peculiar nature of this crime, and owing to the fact that the deceased’s body was all but destroyed, I deem it
imperative that you examine one additional piece of evidence. It will help shed light upon the actual manner of the death of the deceased,” the coroner said.
He looked out upon the world and the people about him with a double vision: one vision pictured death, an image of him, alone, sitting strapped in the electric chair and waiting for the hot current to leap through his body; and the other vision pictured life, an image of himself standing amid throngs of men, lost in the
welter of their lives with the hope of emerging again, different, unafraid.
In relation to the Negro’s mental condition, Dr. Calvin H. Robinson, a psychiatric attaché of the police department, declared: “There is no question but that Thomas is more alert mentally and more cagy than we suspect. His attempt to blame the Communists for the murder and kidnap note and his
staunch denial of having raped the white girl indicate that he may be hiding many other crimes.”
The array of witnesses for the State, the confession made and signed by the defendant himself, and the concrete evidence will reveal the unnatural aspect of this
vile offense against God and man more eloquently than I could ever dare.
Rather that courts be
abolished and each man buy arms and proceed to protect himself or make war for what he thinks is rightfully his own, than that a man should be tried by men who have already made up their minds that he is guilty.
But the question may be asked, ‘If this boy thought that he was somehow wronged, why did he not go into a court of law and seek a
redress of his grievances? Why should he take the law into his own hands?’
Excluded from, and unassimilated in our society, yet longing to gratify impulses akin to our own but denied the objects and channels evolved through long centuries for their socialized expression, every sunrise and sunset makes him guilty of
To send him to prison would be more than an act of mercy. You would be for the first time
conferring life upon him. He would be brought for the first time within the orbit of our civilization. He would have an identity, even though it be but a number.
This will not solve the problem which this crime
exemplifies. That remains, perhaps, for the future. But if we say that we must kill him, then let us have the courage and honesty to say: ‘Let us kill them all. They are not human. There’s no room for them.’
My voice may sound
vindictive when I say: Make the defendant pay the highest penalty for his crimes! But what I am really saying is that the law is sweet when it is enforced and protects a million worthy careers, when it shields the infant, the aged, the helpless, the blind and the sensitive from the ravishing of men who know no law, no self-control, and no sense of reason.
Had he begun to feel his duty toward himself and his family? No! Those were not the considerations that drove this
rapacious beast from his den into the open! He consented only when his mother informed him that the relief would cut off their supply of food if he did not accept.
This newsreel showed Mary Dalton in a bathing suit upon a Florida beach. Jack Harding, a friend of Bigger Thomas, under persistent questioning, admitted that Bigger Thomas was
enthralled by the idea of driving such a girl around the city.
He heard the steel door clang shut and he knew that he was alone. He did not stir; he lay still, feeling that by being still he would
stave off feeling and thinking, and that was what he wanted above all right now.