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NATIVE SON BY RICHARD WRIGHT: FREE LITERARY ANALYSIS
Mary Dalton has a small part to play in this novel, but structurally
and ideologically, she is pivotal. In reality, Mary Dalton seems to have
been a very naive, sheltered woman who had a good heart, but poor judgment.
As Max pointed out, Mary was kept separate from African-Americans all
her life. When she recognized that that separation was wrong, she set
about trying to find ways to heal the hurt of that false divide. She understood
that her parents' charity was ineffectual to stop the suffering of the
masses of people, but could only pick out one or two exceptional members
of the pitied group to be tokens of their charity. She understood that
even while acting with great charity toward African-Americans, her father
maintained his place in an economic system that created the poverty of
the people he subsequently pitied. In her affiliation with the communists
and in her desire to work with African-American people, Mary went against
a everything her training and upbringing had taught her. Her efforts were
dismissed by her parents as childish pranks. She treated Bigger Thomas
as if he were a representative of his entire ethnic group. Unwittingly,
she presumed upon his physical space and his dignity as a separate human
being. She wanted Bigger to give her all the contact that years of institutionalized
separation of the two ethnic groups had denied her. She died having thought
that she was on her way to getting that wish.
Bessie Mears also plays a very small part in the novel, even smaller
than the part played by Mary Dalton. However, she plays a large symbolic
role in her absence and silence. It would take writers of a later generation
to put women like Bessie Mears at the center of their works. For Wright's
novel, Bessie Mears represents the downtrodden. She is a domestic servant
for white families who do not care about her welfare. She is an alcoholic
who bargains with her body for drinks. It is unclear why she chose Bigger
Thomas as her boyfriend. He does not believe she loves him. He thinks
she uses him only for alcohol. Such a theory seems false when the reader
considers Bigger's lack of steady work. Perhaps he stood apart from the
others in his determination to achieve something better. We do know she
wanted to marry Bigger. We also know that she feared not only the white
power structure, but the power of Bigger Thomas to force her into an impossible
position in relation to that power structure. Her own power was apparently
Henry Dalton is an extremely wealthy man, who makes his money in part
from exploiting the poorest of the poor. He has a clear conscience, however,
because he donates huge sums of money to the same group of people. He
cannot understand any social analysis that does not support his right
to do this.
Max is a strong believer in communism as a solution to the social and
economic problems caused by capitalism. He believes that the United States
will not heal the hurts of injustice without an economic solution, one
that would redistribute the wealth of the country so that there is no
longer rich and poor.
Jan Erlone is a youthful radical of the Communist Party who sees the future
as full of the certainties of a successful communist revolution in the
United States. He believes that the class inequalities of capitalism rest
in large part of the ideology of racism. After his lover is killed by
an African-American man, he does not lose his faith in this cause, but
he does recognize the depth of the hurt that has been caused by racism
and poverty. He does not abandon his ideals, but owns up to his part in
causing Bigger's murder of Mary. He understands that he presumed too much,
asked too much familiarity with Bigger, and simplistically believed that
no repercussion would ensue from violating the taboo against contact between
European-Americans and African-Americans.
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. 09 May 2017