HomeLiterature Study GuidesNative SonFear Book 1 Interview With The Daltons Summary

Native Son | Study Guide

Richard Wright

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Native Son | Fear, Book 1 (Interview with the Daltons) | Summary

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Summary

Bigger notices he still has his gun tucked inside his shirt, and he decides to take it with him to meet Mr. Dalton because it makes him feel safer. At the Daltons' mansion, Bigger is intimidated by the plush surroundings and speaks quietly and politely with Mr. and Mrs. Dalton and their housekeeper, Peggy. Mr. Dalton asks about Bigger's time in reform school and says he wants to give Bigger a second chance. He offers Bigger a job as the family's driver at $20 a week to send to his family and an additional $5 for himself.

While Bigger and Mr. Dalton are talking, Mary comes in and asks Bigger if he is a member of a union. Her talk confuses Bigger and angers him because he fears she will make him lose the job before he even starts. But Mr. Dalton just sends Mary away and talks to Bigger about his own membership in the NAACP and his family's contributions to the black community. Mr. Dalton then leaves Bigger with Peggy, who shows him his room and the workings of the house. In addition to driving, Bigger will be responsible for maintaining the coal and keeping the furnace running. Bigger relaxes in his room and fantasizes about how to spend his new salary until it becomes time to drive Mary to the university at 8:30. On his way to get the car, he encounters Mrs. Dalton, who is blind, in the kitchen, and she encourages him to go back to school as their previous driver did.

Analysis

Bigger associates carrying a gun with greater safety. This reveals that he is afraid of white people, even as he resents them. He speaks quietly and politely around the Daltons, the polar opposite of the man who savagely beat his friend in a pool hall only hours before. This scene illustrates Bigger's earlier statement that "white folks never let us do anything"; in this case "anything" includes having a real personality. Not that Bigger should have gone into the mansion in a violent rage, but his behavior reveals that his only purpose in the Dalton house is to obey. He does not feel as though he is allowed to have an opinion when Mary asks him a direct question. He becomes angry with her because her question may imply that he has an opinion or a thought of his own even when white society does not value, or even acknowledge, the thoughts and opinions of African Americans. Perhaps Bigger ultimately fears losing his identity in the Daltons' home, and having the gun tucked inside his shirt serves as a reminder of who he is.

This interview also reveals that Mrs. Dalton is not the only member of the family who is blind. Mr. Dalton boasts about his contributions to black educational institutions and his wife's work with the black community. They repeatedly mention the previous driver who went back to school and moved on to a better job. Bigger's salary of $20 a week for his family and $5 for himself, plus room and board, are a big improvement for his own family's situation, but even this offer pales in comparison to the lush surroundings of the Dalton mansion. Although their intentions may be good, Mr. and Mrs. Dalton show little understanding of the realities of rat-infested apartments and backbreaking labor. The improvements they have brought to individual lives, including the life of their previous driver, are important but do little to change the system of racism and segregation. In the same manner, Mary's talk of unions and rights with Bigger may stem from good intentions, but she is also blind to the full extent of Bigger's experience and even the immediate discomfort her words cause him.

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