The Color Red in Native Son Introduction * In Native Son, Richard Wright uses the motif of the color red to represent violence, anger, fear, desire, and Communism, thus conveying Bigger’s fear and hatred of whites. * “He watched her through the rear mirror as he drove; she was kind of pretty, but very little. She looked like a doll in a show window: black eyes, white face, red lips. ” (62) The red in this passage represents Bigger’s desire and how captivating it is. The last sentence is an example of asyndeton.
The lack of the “and” conjunction gives the impression that this “list” is perhaps incomplete. How it Connects to Eyes * “his eyes red with anger and fear” (26,40,103) This phrase is repeated three times in the novel and it represents and foreshadows Bigger’s upcoming acts of violence. * “Britten followed Bigger till Bigger’s head struck the wall. Bigger looked squarely into his eyes. Britten, with a movement so fast that Bigger did not see it, grabbed him in the collar and rammed his head hard against the wall. He saw a flash of red. (161) Notice the strong diction used in this passage. This passage is a perfect example of how red can mean different things throughout the novel. Here, the “flash of red” can represent four things: the hatred Bigger has for Britten or vice versa. It could also mean the anger and frustration Britten has at this point. It could also represent the fact that Britten is accusing Bigger of being a Communist. Or it could represent the memory Bigger has of burning Mary’s body. * “Bigger saw that the man’s eyes were blood-red; the corners of his lips were white with foam. (342) The red eyes here represent how this man views the world with hatred. Furnace/fire * Repetition of “red bed of embers” This repetition emphasizes Bigger’s fear of the crime he had committed. * Constant use of the word “red” to describe the fire “Red bed of fire”/ red bed of coals”/ “a shell of red hotness”/ “red trembling heat”/ “fire, blindingly red now” (combines the motif of blindness to show how Bigger is blind to the consequences of his actions) * “Like the oblong mound of fresh clay of a newly made grave, the red coals revealed the bent outline of
Mary’s body. He had the feeling that if he simply touched that red oblong mound with his finger it would cave in and Mary’s body would come into full view, unburnt. The coals had the appearance of having burnt the body beneath, leaving the glowing embers formed into a shell of red hotness with a hollowed space in the center, keeping still in the embrace of the quivering coals the huddled shape of Mary’s body. ” Bigger opens the furnace to see if Mary’s body burned.
It has but he still sees the image of her body in the shape of the red burning coals. The red here represents Bigger’s guilt of his violent crime. (118) * “The fire sang in Bigger’s ears and he saw the red shadows dance on the walls. ” (156) “There was silence. The furnace droned. Huge red shadows swam across the walls. ” (157) Wright personifies the fire by saying it “sang” and the shadows by saying they “dance” and “swam” on the walls. The shadows represent Bigger’s guilt of killing Mary Dalton. Bigger’s dream “It sounded suddenly directly above his head and when he looked it was not there but went on tolling and with each passing moment he felt an urgent need to run and hide as though the bell were sounding a warning and he stood on a street corner in a red glare of light like that which came from the furnace and he had a big package in his arms so wet and slippery and heavy that he could scarcely hold onto it and he wanted to know what was in the package and he stopped near an alley corner and unwrapped it and the paper fell away as he saw–it was his own head–his own head lying with black face and half-closed eyes and lips parted with white teeth showing and hair wet with blood and the red glare grew brighter like light shining down from a red moon and red stars on a hot summer night and he was sweating and breathless from running and the bell clanged so loud that he could hear the iron tongue clapping against the metal sides each time it swung to and fro and he was running over a street paved with black coal and his shoes kicked tiny lumps rattling against tin cans and he knew that very soon he had to find some place to hide but there was no place and in front of him white people were coming to ask about the head from which the newspapers had fallen and which was now slippery with blood in his naked hands and he gave up and stood in the middle of the street in the red darkness and cursed the booming bell and the white people and felt that he did not give a damn what appened to him and when the people closed in he hurled the bloody head squarely into their faces dongdongdong…. (165-166)
This is a run-on sentence with no punctuation whatsoever in it. The word “and” is repeated 31 times. And the word “red” is repeated 5 times. Bigger’s dream is contributed by his guilt of Mary’s murder. This dream also portrays the confusion of Bigger’s thoughts and everything going on in his mind. The red stars are seen as a religious symbol and also, a symbol of Communism. The red moon may represent the upcoming end of Bigger’s world because in the Bible, in the book of Revelations, the red moon symbolizes the end of the world. Conclusion “Why this black gulf between him and the world: warm red blood here and cold blue sky there, and never a wholeness, a oneness, a meeting of the two? Was that it? Was it simply fever, feeling without knowing, seeking without finding? Was this the all, the meaning, the end? With these feelings and questions the minutes passed. He grew thin and his eyes held the red blood of his body. ” (420) This last passage represents the lack of unity or oneness between Bigger and the rest of the world. The two worlds, white and black, are never really united in the novel. In conclusion, the color red does not mean only one specific thing in Native Son, but many different things that together portray the fear and hatred Bigger has for the white community.