• Jan 3, 2017

Notes from the Playwright, Nambi E. Kelley

By Nambi E. Kelley, for the 2014 world premiere production at American Blues Theater & Court Theatre, Chicago

There are two Biggers, public Bigger and private Bigger, two views of the same man.  Public Bigger is the Bigger that every-one sees, that people talk to, talk about.  The private Bigger is the unseen man, the man within, Bigger's consciousness, his secret thoughts, the voice inside Bigger's head.  At times, Bigger's inner-self voices Bigger's thoughts as he acts, or speaks directly to Bigger, but Bigger never sees or looks at him, (because one cannot look at the voice he is talking to).  The only exceptions to that are two moments where Big-ger looks into a mirror and is able to see his consciousness.  Because his view of himself is distorted through the eyes of those who look at him with contempt and pity (DuBois), the reflections he sees in the mirror is that of a Black Rat, much like the rat he kills at the top of the novel.  He sees himself in the rat, someone who is dirty, disgusting, vile, sought after to be killed, undeserving of life.    

Although Bigger internalizes himself in a negative way (as a dirty, vile black rat), Bigger's consciousness (the character of the Black Rat) is not negative.  The idea of double consciousness, as I understand it, is an internal mechanism that helps us to navigate, survive, and understand our duality as an African and as an American.  The Black Rat's own du-ality is that he is viewed as a rat, but his intention is to help Bigger survive because he is the voice within that always tries to tell us the best thing to do. (which sometimes is not the best thing to do) He is not the devil on the shoul-der.  In a sense, he is Bigger's higher self.   But because Bigger does not understand his own greatness, he is blind to this.