A Comparison of Macbeth and Bigger Thomas

A Comparison of Macbeth and Bigger Thomas

Bigger Thomas is the main character of Native Son by Richard Wright, and Macbeth is the main character of Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Both Bigger and Macbeth follow the same path, they commit sin, yet Macbeth proves to be more malicious than Bigger. The factors that contrast their malice are their motivations and their reasons to commit these crimes. Ambition, thirst for power, and his wife motivate Macbeth. Bigger, however, simply strives to find a sense of security in a world where he is constantly discriminated.

The way other characters treat them also gives one insight on how malicious or evil the character is. As all factors point, Macbeth is much more evil than Bigger. Both characters commit the same sin: murder. Their reactions and feelings toward these acts prove them both to be evil. When a person commits sin, he can go by one of two paths: either feels remorse and eventually goes insane, or go about his daily life normally, with no feeling of remorse whatsoever. The person who goes mad due to his feelings of guilt and remorse proves to be the much more humane one.

It is said, “A human has feelings, a demon does not”. Both Bigger and Macbeth prove to be evil as they go by their daily lives without feeling any guilt, not having any feelings. In contrast, a human person would be like Lady Macbeth who, despite her ambition, suffers and finally feels guilt and remorse that drive her mad. After killing Mary, Bigger does not ever feel remorse, he feels accomplished and secure. As Wright says, “He felt that he had his destiny in his grasp. He was more alive then he could ever remember having been: his attention and mind were pointed, focused toward the goal. ” (p. 41). Not once does Bigger show any sign of remorse. In contrast to Bigger, Macbeth’s malice progresses, and his remorse descends throughout the play. He repents killing king Duncan, yet continues murdering people. By the end, Macbeth reaches his all time high; he becomes pure evil. He even tells Lady Macbeth that he cannot go back, “I am in blood stepped in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er” (Act 3, Scene 4). By the end, it seems Macbeth seems to lack anything but malice. In fact, the news of his wife’s death brings no change on him; he seems undisturbed by it.

Both characters prove to be malicious, yet Macbeth’s malice increases throughout the play, reaching great heights. Macbeth’s malice grows like a weed, while Bigger’s malice grows like a cactus. Among the main differences between Bigger and Macbeth are their motivations. Although they commit similar crimes, their driving forces to do so are completely different. Bigger is driven by internal emotions. Living in a racist community where he is constantly blamed for things, he strives to find a sense of security. He finally felt somewhat secure working for the Dalton’s.

He then accidentally suffocates Mary Dalton because he wants to keep this security; if Mrs. Dalton found him in her room, he would surely lose all he had worked for. He then killed Bessie because she would have turned him in, which would make him lose this sense of security he had. Apart from the obvious, Bigger has more internal motivations for committing murder. As Boris Max said, he had an inner turmoil. This is due to the society in which he lives in, where he is repressed and made powerless, where he is discriminated and restricted.

This inner turmoil, as he says, is often released in acts of crime. Therefore, society created this malice in Bigger. It is not Bigger himself who is naturally malicious, it is what society has turned him into. This is clearly the case, as later he says: “There was something he knew and something he felt; something the world gave him and something he himself had. . . . Never 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” (pg 324).

Had Bigger never lived without this feeling, he would never need to resort to crimes in order to achieve it; if society had not repressed him, he would not have committed this crime. Therefore, the “evil Bigger” is merely a creation of society. Macbeth’s motivations, however, are entirely different. He is initially motivated externally by Lady Macbeth. She uses skullduggery to convince him to plot a plan and murder everyone in the way of his throne. Once this seed of malice is planted in his head, it does not cease to grow. Macbeth is then driven internally by ambition.

This thirst for power drives him to kill anyone in the way of his throne. Soon, Macbeth’s malice takes over completely. He himself says that he could not return “I am in blood stepped in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er” (Act 3, Scene 4). It is Macbeth’s internal motivation that becomes dominant in the story, and continues driving him; In Bigger’s case, however, it is society that drives him to do evil things. Bigger is portrayed by other characters in Native Son as a helpless young man, while characters in Macbeth see only pure evil in Macbeth.

Boris Max, Bigger’s lawyer, argues that Bigger is partly innocent. His behavior, he says, is a product of the racist environment in which he grew up in. In other words, he is blaming America’s society for Bigger’s actions. He later says to Bigger that his actions are “because others have said you were bad and they made you live in bad conditions. When a man hears that over and over and looks about him and sees that his life is bad, he begins to doubt his own mind (pg. 390) Boris Max’s argument that Bigger is innocent is backed up by several characters.

Jan Earlone is another major character that believes Bigger is partly innocent. Along with many of Bigger’s friends, Buddy goes to the jail cell, gives Bigger his support and promises to fight for what he believes in: Bigger’s innocence. In Macbeth, characters like the three witches and Hecate are aware of Macbeth’s malice. When Macbeth enters, one of the witches alerts the rest by saying “Something wicked this way comes” (act 4 scene 1). The witches know everything; therefore, anything they say must be true. Hecate considers him as “wayward”, “spiteful” and “wrathful” (act 3 scene 5).

Not only the major characters are aware of how evil Macbeth is, but later in the play, a large amount of the people of the kingdom begin to dislike Macbeth for being so malicious. Their lacks of feelings prove both Bigger and Macbeth to be evil. Any human being would experiment feelings of remorse and guilt after committing such crime, yet neither of these characters do. Several factors prove Macbeth to be more evil and malicious than Bigger. First, Macbeth is driven internally, by his own ambition and thirst for power.

Bigger’s actions, however, are merely a product of the society in which he lives in. He cannot be held accountable for his actions, as it was society itself that created his inner turmoil that later exploded in murder. Other characters in each story back up these ideas. Macbeth is called evil by other characters that know him, while Bigger is called innocent by characters that know him. Although both Macbeth and Bigger followed a similar path, Macbeth was headed full speed on a highway of malice, while Bigger was merely given several pushes.


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