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impact and importance of popular culture in determining societal attitudes, as Bigger is only able to imagine the Daltons’ lives by gathering upon movies that portray wealthy white people. During the movie, Bigger also sees a scene of black savages dancing in a jungle, which helps to enhance popular cultures’ portrayal of blacks as savages and whites as civilized and cultivated millionaires. Also, Bigger and his friend’s play-acting as prominent white people, like General J.P. Morgan and the President, in roles that aim at keeping the “niggers” under control demonstrates how they associate whiteness with the power, wealth, and authority to deny them control over their own lives. Other characters, such as the Dalton’s, Max, and Mary, are deeply affected by 2
racial relations throughout the story as well. Each of these white characters gets their understandings of race through the minimal contact they have with black people. For example, Mary defies her parents by dating a communist, cares about social issues, and is politically and personally interested in improving the lives of black people. Though Mary’s intentions are essentially good, however, she is too young and immature to commit fully to her chosen causes and to attain a knowledgeable understanding of those people she seeks to help. Ultimately, she treats Bigger with a thoughtless racism that is just as destructive as the more obvious hypocrisy of her parents. Interacting with the Daltons, Bigger at least knows where he stands. Mary’s behavior, however, is disorienting and upsetting to him. Ultimately, Mary’s thoughtlessness actually ends up placing Bigger in serious danger, while the only risk she herself runs is mild punishment or disapproval from her parents for her disobedience. And when her lack of thinking puts Bigger into the position of being alone with her in her bedroom, her inability to understand him and the panic he feels at the potential of being discovered in her room proves deadly. On the other hand, Mary’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Dalton, also share the same sort of intentions through trying to help out Bigger by giving him a job and potentially sending him to school. However, it is very ironic that while they aim to help black people, Mr. Dalton is part of the reason why blacks live in over-priced, poor living quarters and continue to be segregated from whites in the city, having partially owned the Southside Real Estate Company that Bigger rents from.Ultimately, the central event in the story is the murder of Mary Dalton, a white woman. Absurdly, white people in the city hate Bigger more for the idea of his hypothetically raping Mary than the fact that he murdered her. However, he did not rape 3
her, and white courts and white society forget the only woman he did rape and murder, his girlfriend Bessie Mears. From this exchange, Wright points out the tremendous racial oversight that exists between whites and blacks. His representation shows how whites transform blacks into their own negative stereotypes of “blackness”. A break in this circle