Comment on the importance of narrative techniques used in the novel.
This is the most prominent narrative technique in Native Son. Every pa of the story is characterized by suspense. As the story begins, Bigger Thomas is frantically searching all round their little apartment with a big stick. They are chasing after something, himself and his brother, Buddy while their sister Vera jumps unto the bed. It is a big rat. The gang of Bigger, Jack, Gus and G.H. plan to rob Mr. Blum’s shop. Bigger is afraid but hides his fear. Time ticks gradually to the appointed moment and Gus arrives seemingly late, Bigger fights him and threatens to cut his throat with his knife, Gus surrenders and the robbery is foiled.
Bigger goes to the Dalton’s mansion to work as a driver. That evening he drives Mary Dalton and her boy friend, Jan Erlone to a restaurant to eat and drink. Returning Ma is drunk and unstable. Bigger carries her to her room and lays her on her bed, Suddenly her blind mother emerges in the dark and calls Mary to know if she is alright, Mary tries to mumble and in fear, Bigger chokes her to death. Her corpse is dropped in the furnace. In the morning Peggy goes to the furnace house to add more Charcoal, but just at the door, she calls the panic stricken Bigger Thomas to see to that, suspense indeed.
As Bigger Thomas is busy burning the body of Mary in the Dark, the white cat appears casting its o bright eyes on Bigger as if to ask, ‘What are you doing’? Bigger is frightened and chases the cat away. Mr. Britten is invited to interrogate Bigger, along with other reporters, The furnace is no longer burning well, ashes have to be removed As Bigger struggles to remove the ashes, one of the reporters comes to assist. He sees what resembles bone particles and a piece of metal, resembling an’ earring. Suspense!
Bigger runs to Bessie, and after the kidnap plan fails, they are to escape but Bessie is unwilling. Bigger rapes and smashes her head with a brick and drops her from the window into the snow. He escapes but forgets the money he steals from Ma Dalton’s wallet in Bessie’s pocket. Will he come back for it? Suspense!
After the inquest, the Police and reporters drive a Bigger hack, to Dalton’s house, He is made to move into Mary’s room and do all that he is asked, In the kitchen, the cat surprisingly jumps unto Bigger’s shoulder and holds on tightly until Bigger forcefully pulls it out. What a turn of events? The presentation of Bessie’s corpse, the brick, the hatchet, knife and every instrument of murder among others create great suspense.
The use of irony is also important in the discussion of Native Son. Mr. Dalton has employed Bigger Thomas, but little does he realize that he has employed the murderer of his only child and daughter Mary. It is the first day Bigger Thomas resumes work at the Daltons that he kills and burns the daughter of his employer. Bigger Thomas and mother and siblings live in a one-room, rat-infested apartment at Southside, Chicago. Ironically, their landlord is Mr. Henry Dalton, the wealthy real estate company owner who extorts eight dollars from them every week on rent. After exploiting decks, he donates millions for the education of the blacks. Yet he will not allow blacks to rent apartments in white suburbs. What an irony!
Mrs. Dalton gropes into her daughter’s room, calls if she is alright but she is lifeless. She kneels down and prays over her, not knowing she is dead. Bigger Thomas frames up Jan Erlone in the murder of Mary Dalton. He is arrested and detained. Ironically, Jan Erlone visits Bigger Thomas in the cell and contracts his friend and communist lawyer, Max to defend Bigger Thomas, free of charge. Finally, the death and burning of Mary by Bigger who is supposed to safeguard her is ironic.
The use of flashbacks is another significant technique used in the novel. Peggy O’Flaherty tells us so much about herself and Dalton’s family. It is through her that we get to know that Mr. Dalton has made a five million dollar donation for the black’s education. She also recalls her years in Dalton’s employment and others before her. This is to justify her claim that the Dalton’s are kind and benevolent people. She equally recalls Miss Dalton’s awkward character which is a source of concern to her parents. It is through Peggy that we get to know the daily routine of the Daltons, especially on Sundays. Some information regarding the nature of Bigger Thomas is revealed later in the story after his arrest. He is said to be about five feet, nine inches tall and has exceedingly black skin with protruding lower jaw. His little education up to the eighth grade is mentioned in a flashback as we do not know when. Some of his rough moments are mentioned through a flashback, for instance, robberies they carried out in the past. Finally, the Police dig into the past to expose several other comes committed by Bigger Thomas which no one would have known.
The language of the story is written in simple, straightforward and unambiguous English. The third-person omniscient point of view is adopted in the narration. In this way, the narrator is not only all-seeing but all-knowing.
The narrator digs into the mind of a character to know what is being planned and reports same. One remarkable feature of the language is the clear distinction between the English spoken by the white community and that spoken by the Negroes. For instance, the reverend speaks the ghetto language to depict his Negro background: “Waal, Son, Ah’ll leave Yuh to Yo’ Gawd”. This certainly can easily be understood by the Negroes who speak the same. However, this is at variance with the modern English spoken by the whites. The narration is deep in suspense as the writer employs this to sustain the plot from the beginning to the end. At every point, there is the moment of suspense that is created in such a way as to keep the reader curious until the issue is unfolded. The diction is relatively simple and easy to understand. All in all, the language is quite interesting and easy to understand; evoking memories at the end.