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Free Study Guide: Native Son by Richard Wright - Free BookNotes

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BOOK 3 -"Fate"

Summary (Continued)

Mr. Dalton is called to the stand. He tells about how the Dalton family has always hired African-American chauffeurs. He tells about his shock in learning that Bigger had left his house indicating his guilt. Max questions Mr. Dalton next. He asks him about his real estate company's rent policies. Mr. Dalton agrees that he formulates the policies of the rent companies under his control. He is asked why he charges African - Americans more rent for the same kinds of houses that he charges European Americans. Mr. Dalton says only the law of supply and demand regulates the price of rent. When objections are raised to Max's line of questioning, he asks the Coroner for the same latitude given to the prosecution and tells him that he is trying to get at who influenced Bigger long before Jan came into his life. To Max's questions, Mr. Dalton says a housing shortage causes him to demand higher rents. The housing shortage is not general in Chicago, only in the South Side. He adds that African - Americans do not want to live any other place. He says he thinks African --American are happier when they are together. Max asks if it is not true that they are more profitable when they are together. Mr. Dalton says it would be unethical to charge less rent because he would be underselling his competitors. Max asks if Mr. Dalton's charity is a salve to his conscience for gouging these people on rent. He asks Mr. Dalton if the poor conditions of the Thomas's housing might have contributed to his daughter's death. He does not understand the question.

A number of other witnesses are called to testify; then Bigger is called to testify. Max answers for him that he does not wish to testify here. The Coroner passes the kidnapping note to the jurors as evidence. They also examine all the rest of the evidence on the table.

Next, the Coroner brings in "the raped and mutilated body of Bessie Mears." Max calls the use of Bessie Mears's body an incitement to the mob. Bigger is numb. He had forgotten Bessie during the inquest of Mary Dalton. He knows the men are using Bessie's body to make the jurors want to kill him urgently. He sees that they are treating Bessie as mere evidence. He knows the European Americans never searched for African - Americans who killed African - Americans. He feels a deeper sympathy for Bessie than he ever had when she was alive. He knows how much Bessie would have hated having her body paraded before all these European Americans. He knows he is their property. The coroner flings the sheet back from Bessie's body. He covers his eyes and photographs are taken of him. The jury is removed from the room and, in a few moments, returns. It recommends that Bigger Thomas be charged with murder. The inquest is over. Max tells him they will take him to the Cook County jail and that he should get some sleep.

Outside the building, Bigger hears the mob's cries for his death. They yell out "burn the black ape." The police take him to the Dalton house to re-enact the scene. He refuses. When leaving the house, he sees a burning cross. He is confused. He cannot understand why they would burn a cross. He remembers the preacher's face that morning when he had told him that there was a cross for everyone. He wonders if white people want him to love Jesus, too. He feels that it is wrong for them to burn a cross. He hears the crowd yelling, "He's looking at it! He sees it!" He understands it is not the cross of Christ, but the cross of the Ku Klux Klan. He wonders if the preacher has trapped him. He wants to tear the preacher's cross from him neck. Back in his cell, he snatches it from his throat and throws it away. The guards try to make him keep it. He tells them, "I ain't got no soul."

The preacher comes and Bigger pushes him out. The guard points out his cross on the floor and says the "Reds" have been talking to him. The guard opens the door of his cell anyway and the preacher tries to enter. Bigger swings the door shut and it knocks the preacher backwards onto the floor.

Bigger decides he does not want to feel any more hope. He notices that even in jail, African - Americans are segregated from European Americans. He decides never to trust anyone again, not even Jan or Max. He hears a whisper of another inmate asking him if he is the one who did the Dalton job. He refuses to speak, feeling they are not his kind, not having done crimes such as his. Food is brought in. The guard tells him his lawyer sent it and that he has a good lawyer.

The guard gives him his newspaper, which Bigger reads eagerly. It quotes David A. Buckley as saying that he thinks the Communists are behind many unsolved crimes in the country. He hears a scream and runs to see an African-American man being dragged by his feet by six guards. The man is placed into Bigger's cell. He calls out for his papers. A white man tells Bigger the man is insane and that he went insane from studying too much at the university. He was writing a book about the lives of African - Americans. He claims someone has stolen all the facts he has gathered. He claims to have found the cause of African-American oppression. The man had been picked up at the Post Office building demanding to speak to the U.S. president. Bigger feels great dread in the presence of this insane man. The man screams that he plans to tell the president about how they make African - Americans live in crowded conditions in the South Side, that one in ten are insane, that all the stale foods are dumped into the Black Belt and sold for a higher price than anywhere else. He adds that African - Americans are taxed but given no hospitals, their schools are overcrowded, and they are hired last and fired first from jobs. Soon a group of men dressed in white come to get him. They put him in a straight-jacket and take him away.

Max arrives. Bigger feels helpless to deal with his situation. Max has brought him some clothes. He asks Bigger to tell him all about himself. Max tells him he is facing "a sea of hate" no different from what he has faced all his life and that the only thing to do is fight. Max asks Bigger if he trusts him. He assures him that he can. Bigger realizes he does trust Max, but he doubts if Max can help him see things in a way that would help him go to his death.

Max asks him if he does not care, why did he refuse to re-enact the crime at the Daltons. Bigger says he knows they hate African - Americans. Max tells him they hate others, too, such as those who belong to trade unions. Max tells him he is hated for defending Bigger, that he receives letters calling him a "dirty Jew."

Bigger realizes that Max had evoked in him again the urge to talk. He feels excited. He wants to give solid reasons why he had murdered. He tells Max he was all mixed up and feeling many things at once.

Max asks if he was wanting to rape Mary before Mrs. Dalton came into the room. He admits that he was feeling "a little that way." He says he did not rape her but it does not matter because people say he did. Max asks Bigger if he had liked Mary. He yells out that he hated her and he is not sorry she is dead. He tells Max she asked him a lot of questions and acted and talked in a way that made him hate her. He says Mary made him feel like a dog. As he talks, he catches an image of Vera crying because he had shamed her by looking at her.

Max says people do not hate other people for getting in the front seat with them. Bigger says Mary was not kind to him. Max says Mary had accepted Bigger as another human being. Bigger replies, "what you say is kind ain't kind at all. I didn't know nothing about that woman. All I knew was that they kill us for women like her. We live apart. And then she comes and acts like that to me." Max tries to convince him that even though Mary was rich and European American, she was not acting as his enemy, but as his friend. He tries to get Bigger to see her as an individual. Bigger says that since African-and whites are strangers, she might have been trying to act kindly toward him, but he did not feel that she was being kind.

Max asks him how it is that he hated her but still felt like raping with her when he was in her room. Bigger says he guesses it is because it was what he ought not to have wanted. He says it was probably because that is what people say African-American men do. Bigger says the European Americans draw a line and make African - Americans stay on their side of it. When they try to cross the line, they are killed. Max asks if he wanted to defy the color line.

Max asks him why he did not stop and tell Mrs. Dalton he was in the room when she came in on him. Bigger says he could not possibly have spoken to her, that he felt like someone else stepped into his skin in that room.

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