Examine any two of the following characters in the novel: Bigger, Mr. Dalton, Mrs. Dalton, Peggy, Miss Dalton, Jan, Bigger’s Mother, Bessie.
He is the most outstanding character in the novel. Indeed, Bigger Thomas is the Native Son whose entire life is ruled by fear, hate, crime etc. Bigger 1 Thomas is twenty years in the story and lives in a small rat-infested apartment at Southside with his mother and two siblings, Buddy and Vera, the number is 3721 Indiana Avenue.
Bigger Thomas, Jack, Gus and G.H plan to rob Mr. Blum’s shop. But Bigger is afraid. He cannot contemplate the grave consequence of his involvement in robbery if he is caught, as a black man. To fight this tear, he fights Gus so as to have him to blame for failure to carry out the robbery. On the night he drives Miss Dalton and her lover, Jan out, he is dominated by tear of being seen, sandwiched between two white people. He is afraid to eat, drink or smoke but is lured into all. He returns to Mr. Dalton’s house and nods nut that Miss Dalton is drunk. In great fear, he carries her into her room. Surprisingly, Mrs. Hilton, the girl’s blind mother gropes into the room and he suffocates the girl fearing that she may reveal his presence in her room. In fear, he burns the girls’ body in a furnace.
Again, fearing that Bessie, his girl friend will expose him, he smashes her head with a brick after raping her Apart from “fear” factor, hate is another propelling force in Bigger’s life. He hates Miss Dalton the first day he sets eyes on her. That same day, he kills her. His actions against the whites explain the motive of hate. He is young, naive, not educated, deprived and helplessly poor and so he feels justified in his hate against the system that has made him so.
Bigger Thomas is a criminal. Yes, lie may be young arid innocent but his twenty years have been of one violent crime or the other. He has been in a reform school. He drops out, of regular school because of poverty and takes to street life with Jack, Gus and G.H. They steal and rape. Though they do not rob Mr. Blum, he takes up a job at Mr. Dalton’s house as a chauffeur. The night he drives her out, he ends up killing and burning her body in a furnace. He rapes and kills Bessie, his girl friend to prevent her from exposing him. He frames a kidnap and tries to get a ransom of ten thousand dollars from Mr. Dalton. He attacks a Police Officer. He is found guilty and sentenced to death.
Henry Dalton is the father of Miss Mary Dalton. His wife is Mrs. Dalton, who though blind, is instrumental to his wealth. Mr. Dalton is the owner of a Real Estate Company. He owns the property at Southside and ironically, Mr. Dalton is the landlord of Bigger Thomas. He charges eight dollars per week on a rat infested room apartment and turns around to donate five million dollars to coloured schools Mr. Dalton is said to be a man of conscience and to clear his conscience of guilt, he engages in philanthropy. He is said to be kind. Peggy, his cook remarks that Mr. Dalton is good such that she has served for twenty years in Mr. Dalton’s house, likewise other previous employees.
Mr. Dalton is a capitalist. This informs his avowed hatred for Jan, a renowned communist. Mr. Dalton does not approve the relationship between his daughter and Jan. When his daughter suddenly disappears, he is so worried and is ready to part with the ten thousand dollar ransom. He is assisted by Britten, Buckley and a team of reporters to nail Bigger Thomas. He is unforgiving and seeks revenge on account of the gruesome murder of his only daughter, Mary.
She is a major female character in the story. Mrs. Dalton is the wife of Henry Dalton and mother of Miss Mary Dalton. She is visually impaired but very instinctive. Peggy describes Mrs. Dalton as “the very soul of goodness”. Mrs. Dalton lives with her family at 4605 Drexel Boulevard, a white residential area. Though she is blind, her role in the story is still outstanding. For instance, Peggy says of her (Mrs. Dalton)
“But Mrs. Dalton’s the one who’s really nice. If it wasn’t for her he would not be doing what he does. She made him rich1 she had millions when he married her”. (p.8.7)
Mrs. Dalton lost her sight ten years earlier but she is guided by her instincts. The night Bigger sneaks into the kitchen to drink water, Mrs. Dalton, though blind recognizes and questions him. Again, on the fateful day her daughter dies, she gropes into her room, suspicious of the prevailing atmosphere. She ends up praying for her daughter. She is loving and caring. The ugly news of her daughter’s gruesome murder breaks her. Her testimony at the inquest helps to nail Bigger further especially the “earring episode” which she perfectly recognizes during the trial.
PEGGY OF LAGHERTY
She is perhaps the oldest character in the story. Peggy is a housekeeper in Mr. Dalton’s house. She is very experienced and intelligent. Peggy O’Flaherty is very industrious and resourceful. She has served the Daltons for twenty years and believes that one enjoys a job when you stick to it longer because “a rolling stone gathers no moss’ She says this to convince Bigger Thomas of the need to stick to a job and not to jump from one job to the other without gaining anything in anyone. She receives Bigger, educates him on his job details. Besides, she tells Bigger Thomas about her relationship with the Daltons family.
It is through her that we know how philanthropic and benevolent the Daltons are. Her little regret though is the vile attitude of Mary Dalton. Peggy is outspoken and is not prepared to conceal anything. During the trial of Bigger Thomas, she serves as a key witness and her evidence or testimony contributes significantly to the unraveling of Mary’s dastardly murder. Even when Bigger has concluded his wicked act and returns with the kidnap note, Peggy unknowingly gives him food which explains her humane disposition. Peggy is of Irish origin.
MISS DALTON (MARY)
Miss Mary Dalton is one of the youngest characters in the novel. She is the proud heiress of the Dalton’s dynasty and is worth millions of dollars. Mary is a university student. She is into a relationship with Erlone Jan, a communist and her parents, Mr and Mrs Dalton are opposed to their relationship. For her, the equality of all is prime to human mutual expression and existence. She does not subscribe to her father’s capitalist’s ideology which thrives on exploitation and oppression. Miss. Mary Dalton drinks and smokes and can be uncompromising often in her attitude. However, she does not discriminate. She eats and drinks with Bigger, a Negro and her family chauffeur. Sometimes, she can be irrational in behaviour. On the night of her gruesome murder, she is drunk and mentally and physically unstable. Bigger Thomas carries her to her room. She mumbles something as her mother gropes into the room. This frightens Bigger Themes who places a pillow over her face, presses it and suffocates her. The remains of Mary Dalton is deposited into the family furnace where she burns to ashes leaving her bone particles and an earring as evidence of her brutal killing.
He is a Whiteman and a communist. By his attitude, Jan Erlone shows that the communist party favours the equality of races. He is in love with Mary Dalton. Mary’s parents disapprove of their relationship but Jan loves Mary. When he first comes in contact with Bigger Thomas, he extends his hand of fellowship. He insists that Bigger sits with him and Mary at the table to eat and drink. Thus, he s not discriminatory in nature. He too is drunk on the night Mary is killed.
He is a victim of false accusations. As Mary’s sudden disappearance comes to the fore, Jan Erlone is the prime suspect. He is arrested and detained. Later as Mr. Henry Dalton, Mary’s father decides to drop charges against him, he refuses to leave detention. However, he appears at the inquest and interrogates Bigger Thomas who pushes all the blame to him, knowing that Jan is a frontline member of the “Red” the name for the communists. Jan Erlone is indeed kind and compassionate. Notwithstanding the grave allegations leveled against him by Bigger Thomas, Jan still hires his friend and communist lawyer Max to defend Bigger during the trial. This shows that Jan does not begrudge anyone, not even his enemy.
Mrs. Thomas is the mother of Bigger Thomas, Buddy and Vera. All live in their rat-infested one room apartment at Southside Chicago. She works for the whites and earns little income to sustain the family. She is not happy that Bigger does not work. In her prophetic utterance, she predicts a disastrous end for Bigger Thomas for not going to pick up a new job at the Daltons. In spite of the prevailing poverty that overwhelms them, Mrs. Thomas has firm control of her children and actually dictates the pace until Bigger strays out of the path and pays dearly.
When she hears whet Bigger has done, she is heartbroken. She tells her pastor to counsel Bigger but all entreaties fail on deaf ear as Bigger remain unrepentant She makes very spirited efforts to convert her son, all to no avail. She equally testifies during the trial of her son Mrs. Thomas begs the Daltons for leniency but this is not going to be as Mr. Henry Dalton is ever determined to revenge. Mrs. Thomas loves her children and hopes for the best for them, which explains why she tells the son not to miss the opportunity of working at the Daltons.
She is a young and promising black girl. She is Bigger Thomas’ girlfriend though Bessie is in love with a criminal, she is opposed to Bigger’s plan to take advantage of Dalton’s case to demand ransom. She warns Bigger Thomas that “they catch people who do things like that”. This means she does not subscribe to criminal acts. Bessie is a Negro girl, warm and loving – who, in spite of Bigger’s misdemeanor still remains faithful to him. Bessie equally suffers the same prejudice the blacks are subjected to. She is not comfortable with Bigger’s kidnap plan. Bigger has to force her into submission. On that fateful night, Besie is unwilling to carry out Bigger’s instructions especially when she is told that Mary Dalton is dead. She is terrified. Bigger gives her a drink and when she does not give in to his sexual advance, Bigger subdues and rapes her. While she sleeps, Bigger uses a brick in the abandoned building where they are hiding to smash her head. She is dropped down the flow. Her frozen body is later discovered by the police search team with the remaining money in her pocket which Bigger steals from Mary’s wallet Bessie’s corpse is also presented during trial to further confirm that Bigger is indeed a heartless murderer.