DEATH OF KIDNAPPED JAMB CANDIDATE...PARENT OR JAMB TO BLAME?Rapists strangle UTME candidate, dump corpse inside bush

Parents of 20-year-old Joan Egemba, have been thrown into mourning after their daughter was stabbed and strangled by some suspected rapists in the Ijebu Igbo area of Ogun State.
Joan, who bagged a National Diploma in Accountancy from the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun State, enrolled for the 2016 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the deceased left her home in the Odo Eran, Sango-Ota area around 12pm on Thursday, March 3, for the National Open University of Nigeria centre in Awa Ijebu, where she was posted to sit for the exam the following day.

It was learnt that on Thursday evening, she was abducted at the Ijebu Oru Junction – a few distance away from the centre – by persons suspected to be rapists.
Her corpse was said to be found in a bush at the back of a secondary school in Ijebu Igbo with cuts in her thighs.
Our correspondent was told that the briefs that Egemba wore were torn, suggesting that her assailants were rapists.

Her father, Emmanuel Egemba, said she had called him on the telephone on getting to the centre, informing him that the security guard attached to the centre turned down her request to pass the night on the premises.

He said, “On that Thursday, she left home around 12.30pm, but the bus she boarded at Sango to the centre left around 2pm. She called at 5.30pm that she had arrived there, but the security man at the centre did not open the gate for her and others to pass the night on the premises. I told her to find a place in the area till the following day when she would sit for the exam.
“Around 7pm, I called her again and she said the security man had opened the gate for them. One hour after, I called again but she did not pick her calls. She was supposed to sit for the exam at 6.30am on Friday. I called her around 12pm on Friday, her phone was switched off. As early as 4am on Saturday, I went to the centre to verify whether she sat for the exam or not. I met the security man and he directed me to the JAMB office in Abeokuta. He denied that he allowed my daughter into the school compound to pass the night.

“It was a woman that told us that a girl was kidnapped at Oru Junction and taken towards Ijebu Igbo. We later discovered her corpse on Wednesday, March 9. If the candidates were allowed to sleep inside the school, this incident would not have happened.”

Emmanuel, a retired Assistant Superintendent of Nigerian Customs, said the loss of his daughter was hard to bear, but the family had taken solace in God.

“I learnt it was rapists that killed her. Her body was not mutilated, but she had cuts in the mouth and thighs. Her clothes and briefs were torn and she had bruises in the back.
“We prayed before she left home on that day. While we were praying this morning (Monday) I looked at where she used to sit and it was vacant,” he said.

He stated that the deceased’s mother, Mrs. Chimemo Egemba, was too distraught and could not speak with PUNCH Metro.
A neigbour, who identified himself only as Wale, said the Divisional Police Officer in Awa Ijebu did not act promptly when the case was reported and called for comprehensive investigation to unravel Joan’s killers.

He said, “I followed Emmanuel to the police station on Wednesday, four days after he reported the case, and I asked the DPO if he had visited the school. He said no. He should have gone to the centre instantly to investigate. He is not fit to be a policeman.
“It was at a building beside the NOUN centre that we got the information that the girl was abducted. We traced her to Ijebu Igbo with her picture. At a motor park there, we showed the picture to a man who told us her corpse was dumped in a bush at the back of a school.
“I think she struggled with her abductors while they attempted to rape her. I think they strangled her when they did not succeed in raping her. We want those that perpetrate this act to be fished out and brought to book.”

Wale said a police officer at the Ijebu Igbo division told him that they were overwhelmed by the spate of crime in the community, adding that many policemen had influenced their transfers from Ijebu Igbo to other stations.
The Ogun State Police spokesperson, DSP Muyiwa Adejobi, said the command was working with its Information and Communication Technology experts to track down the suspects.
He said, “We are working on the information we have to get the culprits.



2016 UTME: Another harvest of errors

FOR the second year running, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board has demonstrated an apparent lack of capacity in conducting the computer-based test for the 2016 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. The hitches recorded and candidates’ lamentations will compel any discernible person to query its adoption when the infrastructure for its success is grossly inadequate.

Reports of internet failure, computer glitches, power outages, incompatible questions and answers, difficulty in down-loading question papers, computers without mouse or with keyboard problems, posting of candidates outside the state they registered for the examination were rampant; as was the case in 2015. But most unusual were the 40 marks awarded to some candidates extremely handicapped by these difficulties, and the double results JAMB issued in some cases. That marks were arbitrarily awarded was an admission of grave error, and it raises integrity questions on this year’s exam.

The exam, which began on February 27 in 521 centres across the country, ended on March 19. The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who was at one of the centres in Abuja on an inspection visit, expressed concern about the plight of candidates who had not been accustomed to using a computer. He said, “I have sympathy for candidates who are not computer-literate and there are many of them. I think we should combine CBT with paper examination for sometime but definitely, the future is for computer.” Absolutely!

Many candidates and their parents share the minister’s concern, too. A distraught mother to a candidate – Tobiloba, who sat the exam at MTI College, Surulere, Lagos – is seeking another test for her daughter because she believed that her daughter is brilliant, and could easily have passed the examination, but for the challenges she did not create that day. Her computer tripped off repeatedly during the test. She logged in and saw mathematics, chemistry and physics papers complete. But when the computer tripped off again, a second log-in showed as follows: mathematics 46, chemistry 25 and physics 25 questions, instead of 50 each.

Desmond Peters, another parent, posits, “It is obvious that we are not ripe for this technology yet.” The JAMB Registrar, Dibu Ojerinde, will be hard put to dispute this assertion. Although the CBT mode was fully introduced last year to address the challenges posed by the paper-pencil method, its release of results within 24 hours and serving as an effective bulwark against cheating are not sufficient grounds for the board to overlook the inherent mounting obstacles or complaints thereto. This is why the House of Representatives on Thursday advised the Federal Ministry of Education to direct JAMB to return to the old system or alternatively, make it optional. Earlier, some candidates had protested in Lagos, demanding the cancellation of this year’s test, following the lapses that attended it.

Apart from a few elite schools, the majority of which are privately owned, computer education in secondary schools in the country is a non-starter. This was attested to last year by one of the teachers who participated in the national competition for the Teacher of the Year Award. He told the interview panel chaired by Pat Utomi, “In my school, we teach computer on chalkboard.” Such schools are aplenty; even more are colleges where students have neither theoretical nor practical knowledge of computer. Yet, these schools present candidates for the CBT.

It is this category of UTME candidates that rush to learn how to fiddle with computer keyboards at cybercafés just to sit the examination. They leave the exam halls with forlorn faces, terribly upset and conscious of the fact that they did not perform well, not because they are not intelligent, but because the system failed them. This has gone on for two years, denying admissions to otherwise brilliant youths, whose future is jeopardised in the process. This cannot continue.

The minister should, therefore, demonstrate that his sympathy for this group of candidates is real by ensuring that CBT is made optional in the 2017 edition. It will reduce the degree of failure orchestrated by hitches; and narrow the chances of a candidate from Lagos being given a centre in Warri, or candidate, like Juwon Medaiyese, from Ilorin going to Minna to sit the test. A level playing field has to be created for all the candidates, otherwise, JAMB will largely be seen as fleecing the candidates and their parents annually.

It should be acknowledged, however, that the board meant well by introducing the CBT, as it aligns with modernity and advances the frontiers of Information Communication Technology education. But the bitter truth is that there is a mismatch between the present level of our education and the computer literacy culture being imposed on it.

What’s more; Nigeria is ravaged by infrastructure deficits like gross inadequacy in electricity supply, broadband penetration and alternative source of power. As the UTME lasted, power supply nationwide dipped to 3,449.53 megawatts for a country of about 170 million people, according to statistics from the Ministry of Power. Progress will remain a mirage with the UTME’s CBT if the country does not get these indices right.

Many universities, which had for long passed a vote-of-no-confidence in JAMB’s UTME with their conduct of post-UTME tests to select their students, will be reinforced by this year’s CBT short-comings to deepen the process. Globally, any university worth its name admits its own students; we believe it is the right way to go. It will guarantee quality and autonomy badly needed in our universities.

Punch Editorial Board

Copyright PUNCH.


How over 500 security agents rescued Lagos schoolgirls

A huge public outcry and the pressure on security agents may have been contributory factors to the rescue of three female students of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary in Ikorodu, Lagos State.

The girls — Timilehin Olosa, Tofunmi Popoola and Deborah Akinayo — were kidnapped by gunmen on Monday on their school premises.

PUNCH Metro gathered that they were rescued by policemen and other security operatives at the Imota area of Ikorodu on Sunday.

It was gathered that the public outcry prompted the government to meet the needs of security agencies on the rescue operation, while the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, sent his special team to Lagos to take over the operation.

The security agents had combed every nook and cranny of the state, especially the Ikorodu area, making the abductors uncomfortable to stay in one place.

Our correspondent was told by one of the security agents involved in the rescue operation that it was discovered that the victims were initially taken to Adamo forest immediately after their abduction.

Adamo forest is across the river in Lugbusi community, where the school is situated in Ikorodu.

The source said, “We gathered that the kidnappers were 12 men, and they came in eight canoes. They used seven AK-47 rifles for the operation.

“One of the men, who we later identified as Lamiameni, brought the kidnapping job to the gang, while another member, known as Felix, alias Tradition, was the one communicating with the families for ransom negotiation.”

Another source said from the forest, the gang moved to a creek, located between Ikorodu and Epe, Lagos State, where they also held the girls.

Security agents were said to have had the first break on March 4, when a suspected kidnapper, Emmanuel Arigidi, aged 37, was sent by the gang from the creeks to buy foodstuffs.

He was said to have bought foodstuffs big enough for an army, which confirmed the suspicion that he was a member of the gang. He was subsequently arrested.

He said, “Arigidi broke down during interrogation and confessed to being a member of the gang that stole the schoolgirls. He gave us the direction to the place they were keeping the girls, and mentioned the names of other members. He even promised to lead the operatives to the location.”

It was gathered that after waiting for Arigidi for two days, the gang sensed that something was amiss and thereafter moved to an area around Igbo Okuta Bridge, Imota, Ikorodu.

It was gathered that possible hiding places had been discussed among the gang members during the planning of the kidnapping.

When security operatives therefore noticed that there were no activities in the creek, they suspected that the gang had fled the area. But Arigidi had no problem in revealing the place they could be.

Also, the relatives of suspected abductors mentioned by Arigidi were said to have been rounded up and made to plead with their people on the telephone to release the girls.

It was learnt that the fathers of two of the suspected kidnappers were allowed on Saturday to go after their sons to talk to them and other gang members to release the girls.

“At about 5am on Sunday, over 500 operatives, comprising the IG team, the Lagos State Police Command and other security agencies stormed Imota and rescued the schoolgirls at the Igbo Okuta Bridge area of Ikorodu,” a source said. Two other suspected kidnappers were arrested during the operation.
Parents rejoicing on the school’s premises
Parents rejoicing on the school’s premises

Another top police source told PUNCH Metro that the family had not paid any ransom before the girls were rescued, adding that creeks in Ikorodu were still being combed for other Arigidi’s gang members.

He said, “The boys (kidnappers) came through the shallow water behind the school with eight canoes and seven AK-47 rifles for the operation and escaped with the kidnapped girls with the same canoes. Arigidi mentioned Clement Abanara, aka Millions, earlier arrested by the IG team, as his boss.”

Another police source, however, said the kidnappers abandoned the girls and fled the scene.

He said, “The arrest of one of Arigidi’s gang members forced other members of the gang to abandon the girls at Imota. Efforts are in progress to arrest the fleeing kidnappers.”

There was disagreement among us

One of the kidnappers of the three abducted schoolgirls, Emmanuel Arigidi, said on Sunday that there was an altercation between him and other 11 members of the gang, which forced him to leave the gang.

Arigidi was paraded on Sunday at the Governor’s Office in Alausa, Ikeja, with two other accomplices — Akanji Sheu and James Henry.

It was gathered that the pupils were rescued by security agents in the Imota area of Lagos.

Arigidi said he opened up to the men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, who arrested him in the Majidun area of Ikorodu.

Arigidi, who spoke in pidgin English, explained that he was invited to participate in the abduction by Lamiameni and Felix, who are still at large.

He said, “Lamiameni was the one who brought the deal and we discussed how to carry out the operation at Majidun. We were 12 in number. We went to Maya Bridge to board a canoe and around 8pm, we entered the school and abducted three girls.

“There was a misunderstanding among us on how to keep the girls. I told them I did not like what we had done and we should release the girls because security had become tight and the police were on our trail. But my gang members threatened to kill me. I managed to board a boat and run away from our den. Three days after, SARS arrested me at Majidun and I explained everything to them.”

The two other accomplices, Sheu and Henry, were not allowed to speak with journalists. However, PUNCH Metro managed to speak with Henry before they were taken away in a police van.

Henry said he was a victim of circumstance. He said he helped customers to register their lines in Ikorodu, adding that a line, which he registered, using his photograph, was used by the kidnappers.

It was learnt that the kidnappers had used the line to negotiate ransom with the school and Henry was picked up after the police tracked the number.

He said, “I register SIM lines for customers in Ikorodu. I helped a customer to register his line but after he had left, I discovered that his photograph did not appear on his profile. In an attempt to submit his details, I used my photograph instead. That was how the police traced the line to me. Except the photograph, other details are not mine.”

Schoolgirls healthy, not molested

The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, said medical treatment carried out on the freed schoolgirls confirmed that they were hale and hearty, adding that the police adopted intelligence-based policing and technology to rescue them.

The CP also dismissed speculations that ransom was paid for the release of the pupils.

“We arrested three suspects. One is actively involved, while the two others are conspirators who, one way or the other, aided the kidnapping. With respect to the health of the girls, they are well, stable and immediate medical attention has been given to them by the police medical team. When we rescued them, one of the questions we asked them was whether they were molested in any way and they stated unequivocally that they were not molested in any way.

“When you talk about ransom in this case, you are glorifying them. We should not be talking about that again in this country. Talking about it means telling people that kidnapping is of value and people can make money from it. What was employed in rescuing the girls is more of application of intelligence-led policing, using the platform of technology and partnering members of the community.

“We mounted pressure on the kidnappers. What we did with other security agencies was that we went for the members of their (kidnappers’) families – the mother, the father and their children and with that pressure, they found that there was no way for them again to keep on to the girls. That was what led to the success of the rescue operation. The girls were rescued around Imota, Lagos.”

Parents celebrate release of schoolgirls

Our correspondent, who managed to gain entrance into the school around 11.30am on Sunday, saw parents celebrating the rescue of the girls, while a thanksgiving prayer session was immediately organised in a church on the school’s premises.

Amid shouts of praises and laughter, some parents were seen hugging one another while the school frontage was filled with cars of parents, who came to celebrate the news.

Security agents were also on the ground.

One of the parents was heard saying, “God, you are marvelous. You are great. We thank you for the protection of these children.”

The school security men subsequently told our correspondent to leave the premises, saying “the management does not want to see journalists for now.”

An official of the school, who did not want his name in print, said, “I have been praying day and night for the safe return of these girls. They were abducted on the last day of February. The following day, I could not say happy new month to people. As far as I am concerned, today (Sunday) marks a new month.”

Some students believed to have been taken away from the school by their parents because of the abduction, were brought back on Sunday.

But a school teacher, who also expressed his happiness over the rescue of the girls, said many of those coming back were students who went to sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination.

“The school is back to life now. I can now go back to the classroom and teach. I am very excited. Academic activities must resume tomorrow (today),” he said.

We will fight all crime

The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, on Sunday said his administration had the will and capacity to fight all forms of crime and criminality in the state.

He added that kidnappers would find no hiding place in the Lagos.

The governor, who addressed journalists on the safe rescue of the girls, said his administration would spare nothing to clamp down on all forms of crime in the state.

He said, “Let me warn that the state government will not tolerate kidnapping or any form of crime in Lagos.

“Our position is clear and unambiguous; Lagos State has the capacity and the will to go after every form of crime and criminality in order to safeguard lives and property.”

The governor added that he was relieved that the girls were rescued in the early hours of Sunday.

“The three girls have been safely re-united with their families and the government wishes to assure Lagosians that their security is top priority and it will not relent in ensuring that Lagos remains safe and secure,” he said.

Copyright PUNCH.


A teacher in a private school, Edet Umoren, in Esugbo, Itamerin near Ijebu-Ife, Ijebu East Local Government Area of Ogun State, on Thursday, allegedly beheaded a 10-year-old pupil, Precious Adedeji.

Adedeji, who was a pupil of Favour Nursery and Primary School, was the granddaughter of the proprietor, Pastor Joseph Olitoye.

It was gathered that Umoren allegedly killed the pupil because Olitoye owed him N8, 000 – the suspect’s salaries for January and February.

Umoren, also severed off the right hand of the 10-year-old girl after seizing and dragging her into a nearby bush, a day after her birthday.

The assailant, who was also said to be the treasurer of the school proprietor’s church, was alleged to have seized Adedeji when she and her friend, Patricia, were returning to the school from where they had gone to buy biscuit.

Patricia, it was learnt, escaped from the scene and ran back to the school premises to inform the proprietor of the attack by “Uncle Edet.”

The proprietor said he had pleaded with Umoren to exercise patience till the end of this week to enable him to pay the salaries owed him.

Olitoye disclosed that Umoren left two short notes at the scene of the crime, claiming that he killed the girl because of the failure of the proprietor to pay him his two months’ salaries of N8,000.

He said, “Edet resumed school this morning (Thursday) like every of our staff and we discovered that he left around 10am not knowing he went to plan this evil.”

The distraught Olitoye said he had planned to terminate the appointment of the teacher on Friday over alleged disobedience, which made him to issue him a query before he committed the crime.

He also alleged that the assailant, who until the incident, was the treasurer of his church, had allegedly stolen over N250,000 from the church’s fund.

Confirming the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, said Umoren had been arrested.

Adejobi, a deputy superintendent of police, said detectives picked up the suspect at about 5am on Friday.

He said the Commissioner of Police, Abdulmajid Ali, had directed that the suspect should be transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department for investigation.

Copyright PUNCH.


This is not a RUNS project or one claiming to have extracted questions from WAEC/NECO/JAMB computers.















Regents English Prep Online


This is not a RUNS project or one claiming to have extracted questions from WAEC/NECO/JAMB computers.









Regents English Prep Online



Critical Evaluation
When it appeared in 1940, Native Son was without precedent in American literature. Previous African American writing, including Richard Wright’s Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), had treated blacks as passive and innocent victims of racism suffering their lot in dignified silence. As Wright said of his own earlier work, the reading audience could escape into the self-indulgence of pity on reading such work rather than truly face the hard facts of racism. In Bigger Thomas, Wright created a character who was neither a passive sufferer nor an innocent victim. Instead, Wright reminded Americans of the full cost of bigotry in social and human terms by dramatizing the deep anger, hate, and fear that many blacks felt.

Years after Native Son’s appearance, James Baldwin would assert that every black person carries some degree of Bigger Thomas within him- or herself. Perhaps so, and it is to Wright’s credit that he was the first American writer to bring those feelings into the open. Readers are reminded that Bigger is a “native son,” and his experience is quintessentially a part of the American experience. On the psychological, the sociological, and the philosophical levels, Wright explores the most disturbing implications of what it means to be African American.

The basic tone of Wright’s psychological treatment of Bigger is set in the opening scene in which Bigger and Buddy battle the rat. Here is a symbolic paradigm for the entire novel in which Bigger, like the rat, will be hunted and destroyed. The rat, it must be understood, operates entirely at the instinctual level, and its viciousness is in response to fear. Recalling that “Fear” is the title of the first section of the novel, as “Flight” is of the second, suggests that Bigger, too, is a creature motivated by fear and acting instinctively. This is demonstrably true of his killing Mary Dalton while avoiding detection, and it shows up even earlier in the fight with Gus. Fearful of outside forces, particularly white people, Bigger is equally fearful of the repressed anger within himself, as his several comments referring to his concern that he is destined to commit some terrible act indicate. Thus, in at least the first two sections of the novel, Bigger, before and after the murder, is operating at an instinctual level, and it is against this background that his development takes place.

Bigger’s psychological state is an obvious result of the sociological conditions prevailing in the novel. As Bigger dramatizes the anger and pain of his race, the Daltons effectively represent the ruling white power structure. It is to Wright’s credit that he does not give way to the temptation to create villains, but makes these whites generous, liberal, and humanitarian. It is ironic that even while giving a “chance” to Bigger and helping in ghetto programs, the Daltons are reaping the proceeds of ghetto housing. Appropriately, Wright uses the metaphor of blindness to characterize the attitude of the Daltons here, as he will later, to account for Max’s failure to comprehend Bigger. Bigger, too, is described as blind, because, in this world of Native Son, there is no real possibility of people seeing one another in clear human perspective. All the characters respond to one another as symbols rather than as people.

Wright’s use of the polarities of black and white symbolism is not limited to the literal and racial levels of the novel. The entire world of Native Son, as the story unfolds, is increasingly polarized into a symbolic black-white dichotomy. Especially during part 2, the snow that buries the city under a cold and hostile blanket of white becomes a more complicated manifestation of the white symbolism than that limited to the sociological level. At the same time, not only does Bigger escape into the black ghetto in search of safety and security, he also seeks out the black interiors of abandoned buildings to hide from both the freezing snow and the death-dealing white mob.Finally, Bigger’s flight ends when he is spread out against the white snow as though he were being crucified.

It is not probable that Wright had heard of European existentialism when he wrote Native Son, so it is all the more remarkable that this novel should so clearly demonstrate concepts that anticipate Wright’s embracing of existentialist philosophy when he went to Europe in the late 1940’s. Though Bigger very obviously commits the first murder without premeditation, he quickly comes to the realization that somehow the act is the sum of his entire life. Rather than repudiating responsibility for his crime, or seeing himself as a victim of circumstances, either of which would be understandable, Bigger consciously and deliberately affirms the killing as the most creative act of his life. Whereas before he was in the position of constantly reacting—like the rat—he now sees himself as having responsibility for his own fate. Further, the world that before had seemed frighteningly ambiguous is now clearly revealed to him. For the first time in his life, Bigger has a positive sense of his own identity and a concrete knowledge of how he relates to the world around him. Ironically, Max’s case that Bigger is a victim of society threatens to deprive Bigger of the identity he has purchased at such terrible cost to himself, but, facing death at the end of the novel, he reaffirms his belief that he killed for something, and he faces death with the courage born of his one creative moment.

Wright’s novel is not without faults, particularly the tedious final section in which Max argues a doctrinaire Marxist interpretation of Bigger’s crime. Apparently, however, Wright himself could not fully accept this view, since Bigger’s reaffirmation of responsibility contradicts Max’s deterministic justification. In the final analysis, Bigger’s insistence upon responsibility for his act demonstrates the human potential for freedom of act and will and asserts human possibility in contrast to the Marxist vision of people as animals trapped in a world they cannot control.



Regents English Prep Online


Critical Context

When first published in 1940, Native Son was an immediate success. It was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and in three weeks 215,000 copies were sold.

Richard Wright was a prolific writer, and his other works include Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth (1945), Lawd Today (written 1935, but not published until 1963), Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), and The Outsider (1953).

As literature, Native Son employs the tenets of naturalism and existentialism to portray Bigger Thomas, the stereotypical “nigger.” If, as the naturalist contends, human beings are the products of their environment, then the very title of the novel—Native Son—seems to indicate that Bigger responds to environmental forces. In true naturalistic fashion, Bigger does not understand these forces, and hence he cannot control them.

Wright is as true to existential tenets as he is to naturalism. The meaninglessness of Bigger’s existence is at one with the existential philosophy. When, at the end of the novel, Bigger says, “But what I killed for, I am!” he is accepting responsibility for his actions—yet another attribute of existentialism.

Native Son is naturalistic and existential not because Wright is intent on adhering to particular philosophical systems but because, as some commentators have observed, he found black life in America both naturalistic and existential.

Critical Overview

Since Native Son was published in 1940, it has disturbed the complacency of Americans, both African Americans and whites. Bigger Thomas’s raw rage cannot be ignored; readers respond either negatively or positively to the novel. Wright kept the promise he made when he discovered that “even bankers’ daughters could read and weep over and feel good about Uncle Tom’s Children. ” He vowed that his next book would be one that “no one would weep over.” In fact, “it would be so hard and deep that they would have to face it without the consolation of tears.” In this, Wright succeeded.
In Native Son, Richard Wright aimed to present the complex and disturbing status of racial politics in America. The great quantity of criticism that the work has generated and its popularity over more than fifty years indicate that Wright succeeded. The work has undergone several periods of critical assessment. Early reviewers, especially African American critics, recognized the book’s significance. In the decade that followed its publication, the novel’s stature was diminished by harsh criticism from James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison. Later critics, examining the ability of art to wage battle in the social war for greater equality, once again praised the novel. This phase coincided with the “black power” movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, the novel was faulted by feminist critics for its misogynist tone.
Early reviewers of the novel acknowledged its significance. Charles Poore, in the New York Times, declared that “few other recent novels have been preceded by more advance critical acclamation.” Native Son was seen as a novel of social protest, typical of works from the 1930s, when writers who lived through the Great Depression created works critical of the American dream. Thus, Wright was easily subsumed in the category of “protest novelist” along with John Steinbeck, Theodore Dreiser, and others.
After World War II, writers like James Baldwin, in the Partisan Review, and Ralph Ellison, in the New Leader, soundly criticized Wright for being too harsh and impatient. They felt that his picture of the black man in America was too violent.

Regents English Prep Online



“Was what he had heard about rich white people really true? Was he going to work for people like you saw in the movies . . . ? He looked at Trader Horn unfold and saw pictures of naked black men and women whirling in wild dances . . . .”

This passage from Book One appears as Bigger sits in the movie theater, thinking about the possibilities for his new job as the Daltons’ chauffeur. He has just seen the newsreel about Mary and has decided that he might find more to like about the job than he initially suspects. Here we see just how little contact Bigger has had with white people and therefore how impossible it is for him to conceive of them in realistic terms. We also see the importance of popular culture in determining societal attitudes, as Bigger is only able to imagine the Daltons’ lives by drawing upon movies that portray rich white people. The movie screen shows a scene of black savages dancing in a jungle, which Bigger covers up in his mind with an imagined scene of an elegant white cocktail party. Wright juxtaposes these sharply contrasting images to indicate the extent to which Bigger’s—and America’s—attitudes about whites and blacks are determined by popular culture. This popular culture inundates the America of Wright’s time with imagery that depicts blacks as savages and whites as cultured and sophisticated millionaires.


“ The head hung limply on the newspapers, the curly black hair dragging about in blood. He whacked harder, but the head would not come off. . . . He saw a hatchet. Yes! That would do it. . . .”

This extremely disturbing passage from the end of Book One describes Bigger’s brutal disposal of Mary’s body after he accidentally smothers her to death. He tries to stuff the body in the furnace, but the head will not fit, so he is forced to decapitate Mary in order to fit her corpse into the fire. The grisliness of this passage is intentional, and important to the novel: Wright does not want to portray Bigger as a passive victim of a situation beyond his control. He spares no gruesome detail, depicting Bigger’s excited, racing mind and the gory work of dismembering Mary. Though there are extenuating social and personal circumstances surrounding Mary’s death, Wright does not want to portray Bigger as heroic for having killed her. Furthermore, he wants to emphasize that Bigger’s mindset is one of such pain and rage that he is more than capable of committing such brutality. Bigger is a victim of racism, and the worst part of his victimization is not that he is forced to kill Mary but that he has been transformed into a person capable of furious violence, one who even craves such violence. Showing Bigger hacking apart Mary’s corpse, Wright indelibly reminds us that Bigger is not morally pure. Rather, racism has destroyed Bigger’s innocence by awakening terrible capabilities within him—capabilities that later enable him to kill Bessie as well.


“Listen, Bigger,” said Britten. “Did you see this guy [Jan] act in any way out of the ordinary? I mean, sort of nervous, say? Just what did he talk about?
“He talked about Communists. . . .”
“Did he ask you to join?”
“He gave me that stuff to read.”
“Come on. Tell us some of the things he said.”
Bigger knew the things that white folks hated to hear Negroes ask for; and he knew that these were the things the Reds were always asking for.

In this passage from Book Two, in which Britten questions Bigger about Mary’s disappearance, we see Bigger’s astute ability to deflect suspicion away from himself by playing upon white prejudice against blacks and communists. Bigger assumes a slow-witted, subservient attitude that completely conceals his sharp intellect and capability for drastic action, and then uses this attitude to cast subtle suspicion upon the innocent Jan. Bigger utterly outsmarts the whites by telling them exactly what they want to hear, saying that, on the night of Mary’s disappearance, Jan was talking about these “things the Reds were always asking for.” Bigger knows that simply associating Jan with communist rhetoric will make Jan appear guilty in the minds of his white listeners, even though they already know Jan to be an avowed communist. Bigger uses his long experience with racial prejudice shrewdly, manipulating the prejudices of his white questioners. This passage suggests that, had Mary’s bones not been discovered in the furnace, Bigger may have gotten away with his crime completely.


“He had done this. He had brought all this about. In all of his life these two murders were the most meaningful things that had ever happened to him.”

This quotation from Book Two is the first expression of an idea that Max later echoes in his courtroom defense of Bigger—that Bigger’s murders make him as exultant as they make him guilty, as they provide his life with a new sense of purpose and expression. Bigger’s possibilities have always been stunted by racism, but after these murderous acts, he is “free” to act—and to live with the consequences of these actions—for the first time. Even though these consequences ultimately mean flight and imprisonment, this feeling of self-assertion and personal control nonetheless remains liberating and intoxicating for Bigger.


“There was something he knew and something he felt; something the world gave him and something he himself had. . . . [N]ever in all his life, with this black skin of his, had the two worlds, thought and feeling, will and mind, aspiration and satisfaction, been together; never had he felt a sense of wholeness.”

Early on in Native Son, Wright describes how Bigger retreats behind a “wall” to keep the reality of his situation from overwhelming him. This passage from Book Two elucidates the destructive effects of Bigger’s retreat. He is isolated not only from his friends and family, but from himself as well. The AfricanAmerican author W. E. B. DuBois, in The Souls of Black Folk, describes the effect of racism on the black psyche: “One ever feels his two-ness—an American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” Indeed, though Bigger’s body is still in one piece, his mind is split in two, leaving him unable to interact with others and unable to understand himself. It is this quest for wholeness that dominates Bigger’s life. Tragically, it is not until he has murdered two women and is soon to be executed that he is able to understand and grasp this wholeness. He is exhilarated by his new realization, yet tormented by the fact that it comes too late, when he has precious little time left to live.


Regents English Prep Online



Writing Style…Explanatory

Though Native Son is peppered heavily with dialogue, it is also interspersed with long passages that illuminate Bigger’s motivation:

There was silence. The car sped through the Black Belt, past tall buildings holding black life. Bigger knew that they were thinking of his life and the life of his people. Suddenly he wanted to seize some heavy object in his hand and grip it with all the strength of his body and in some strange way rise up and stand in naked space above the speeding car and with one final blow blot it out—with himself and then in it. His heart was beating fast and he struggled to control his breath. This thing was getting the better of him; he felt that he should not give way to his feelings like this. But he could not help it. Why didn’t they leave him alone? What had he done to them? What good could they get out of sitting here making him feel so miserable? (1.1066)

Even though the point of view of the book is Bigger’s, we are treated to explanations of his behavior that he himself doesn’t vocalize… and emotions that are so immense and incomprehensible that they’re referred to as “the thing(s).”

What’s Up With the Title?

The title is a slam on American society. Bigger Thomas, the novel’s main character, is a “native son” of America: he was born and raised as a black man in the U.S., so he’s a product of the country. Local cultural and social forces shaped and created him.

So if he’s a monster, the title suggests, it can be blamed on American society. And this is precisely what Max, Bigger’s lawyer, argues in Bigger’s defense after Bigger commits murder—twice.

What’s Up With the Epigraph?

Epigraphs are like little appetizers to the great entrée of a story. They illuminate important aspects of the story, and they get us headed in the right direction.

Even today is my complaint rebellious, My stroke is heavier than my groaning —Job

The epigraph is a quotation from the Book of Job. Job was a good guy—faithful to God and wildly successful. He had a wife, wonderful children, massive wealth, and great health. However, Satan dares God to take all of Job’s blessings away and see if Job is still faithful after all the suffering. God agrees, and gives Satan freedom to do what he wants with Job… as long as he doesn’t kill him.

After Satan epically messes with Job’s life, Job sits there with boils on his face, stricken with poverty and hunger and pestilence and plague, his kids and servants dead. He questions why God allowed him to be treated like this. The only thing left to him is his wife, who grows bitter and encourages Job to rail against God. Yet even as he questions God, Job refuses to curse him. So in this particular game, God wins. Job struggles to maintain his spiritual faith in the face of tragedy and finally does it. He’s thus seen as one of the “righteous” men.

The quotation with which Wright chose to open Native Son comes from the period when Job is still frustrated about his sufferings. He’s still trying to figure out what’s happening to him. As Job begins to realize that his sufferings are due to forces he can’t control, he complains bitterly that he feels isolated, alone, and abandoned. Though Bigger isn’t “righteous” like Job, he is similarly a victim of larger forces that batter him about mercilessly—forces of racism, injustice, and poverty.

His bitterness and rebellion are natural responses to an unjust system. In the quote Wright used, Job hasn’t yet submitted to God; he’s still questioning the justice of his situation and the goodness of a God who would use him to wager a bet. Bigger likewise questions the justice of his situation. Instead of submitting to a social system of racism, he rails against it in the only way he knows how. His murder, ironically, awakens him to the forces of racism that caused him to murder in the first place—and waking up to the truth makes him want to live.

Steaminess Rating/Warning to Schools and Tutors

Exactly how steamy is this story?

So, we really do think the sex scene in this book should be rated R, but you won’t believe us unless you have a recently published copy of the book; older versions cut out a lot of the sexually explicit sections.

The first “sex” scene occurs when Jack and Bigger both masturbate in the movie theater. The movie they watch shows Mary Dalton enjoying her boyfriend Jan on the beach in Florida, perhaps not actually having sex, but at least having a heavy-duty make out session.

Later, as Bigger drives Jan and Mary around in the park after they’ve all been drinking together, he glimpses Mary’s white thigh in the rearview mirror while Jan and Mary are making out (perhaps having sex) in the backseat. We’ll never know if they actually had sex or not because Jan denies that they did.

After Jan, Mary, and Bigger get drunk, Bigger has to help Mary to her room because she’s too hammered to make it up the stairs alone. As he helps her, Bigger realizes he’s never been alone with a white girl before, much less in her room—and that brings about some sort of desire. Well, that and her pushing her pelvis up against Bigger and kissing him. But, instead of having sex with her, he accidentally kills her.

Bigger does get some real action with Bessie, though. The afternoon after he kills he goes and hangs out with Bessie and they have sex. Sadly, shortly afterwards he rapes Bessie… just before he kills her.

Narrator Point of View

Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

Third Person (Limited Omniscient)

The narrator tends to follow Bigger’s thoughts and actions, only revealing what’s going on in Bigger’s head. The narrator, however, seems to know more about Bigger than the character does himself. The narrator indicates that Bigger is afraid, even when Bigger doesn’t realize it himself… or at least won’t admit it.

As a result, we (the readers) gain insight into Bigger’s inner thoughts, even all of the fear and shame that he tries to hide from the people around him. In this way, we learn who Bigger is and what drives him to become a criminal. We can judge Bigger better than the judge or jury can because we are able to see into Bigger’s mind and heart.


Crime Drama, Naturalism

Like most great books, Native Son can’t be shelved in just one section of your local bookstore. It combines elements of multiple genres, and that’s because it’s such a unique and visionary work.

On the one hand, the story of Bigger and the murders follows under the category of crime-related drama. In fact, this book almost reads like something straight out of the true crime genre. You know, those non-fiction books that give you all the gory details about an infamous crime? (Of these, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood might be the most famous.)

Bigger’s crimes—regardless of whether you feel Bigger is personally responsible, or if you can see how his circumstances led him to act as he did—are the focus of the novel’s plot. We see the build-up, commission, and resolution to his criminal acts.

But that question—how much personal responsibility Bigger bears, versus the role that his social surroundings might have played—is one that speaks to the presence of what some call Naturalism and others call Social Realism. In either case, a naturalist work is one that is concerned with the impact of society on its characters.

In the case of this novel, we’re invited to see how social trends like poverty and prejudice might have a tremendous impact on a person’s thoughts and actions. Sure, crime is a result of Bigger’s personal action, but can that really be separated from the bigger social forces that weigh so heavily on him? That, oh Shmoopers, is a question for you to ponder.

Regents English Prep Online