Native Son

Mary Dalton: A Cause of Bigger's Torment 11th Grade

In Book One of Richard Wrights novel “Native Son,” Mary Dalton is, to her parents’ disapproval, a member of the Communist movement set in 1930’s Chicago. Mary attempts to achieve her dream of extinguishing the barriers between African-Americans and Caucasians by treating Bigger Thomas in an extremely warm and informal manner. This sparks a sense of bewilderment in Bigger, who is accustomed to being treated inferiorly by the whites, and grows uncertain in how he should behave around her. Mary’s ignorance, naïve nature, and “good intentions” ultimately condemn her to a blazing furnace, metaphorically comparable to her form of “hell,” and her gruesome death proves to haunt Bigger in the form of searing flashbacks throughout the remainder of Book One.

Mary Dalton unwittingly induces her own demise in several ways. She brands her first impression on Bigger when she appears in a movie he watches. Her leisure lifestyle is characterized by abundant wealth and squandering, which fills Bigger with “a sense of excitement about his new job.” The fact that she has indirectly persuaded Bigger to accept the job vaguely, yet eventually results in her murder. On a more precise scale, a majority of Mary’s numerous actions also act as tinder that...

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