Native Son

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Buckley Character Analysis

The State’s Attorney and prosecutor of the case against Bigger, Buckley is very much a representative of the city’s ruling white majority—he calls Bigger an “ape” and a “savage,” and makes it seem that Bigger killed out of a generalized blood-lust, directed particularly against white women. Buckley succeeds at trial in getting the judge and jury to agree to Bigger’s execution.

Buckley Quotes in Native Son

The Native Son quotes below are all either spoken by Buckley or refer to Buckley . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of Native Son published in 1993.
Book 3 Quotes

Speaking for the grief-stricken families of Mary Dalton and Bessie Mears, and for the People of the State of Illinois, thousands of whom are massed out beyond that window waiting for the law to take its course, I say that no such quibbling, no such trickery shall pervert this Court and cheat this law!

Related Characters: Buckley (speaker), Mary Dalton , Bessie
Page Number: 374
Explanation and Analysis:

Buckley, the prosecutor, does what he can to make it seem that he must prosecute aggressively, and ask for the death penalty against Bigger, because the "community" (meaning the white community in Chicago) will rest for nothing less. This, by implication, means that the white community might feel it necessary to take justice into its own hands if Bigger is not sentenced to death. This threat of extra-legal violence is a chilling one, and is a sign that the nature of violence in a racially-polarized society, like Chicago at this time, does not operate equally. Members of white society are more or less allowed to threaten certain members of black society with violence outside the legal system, and without consequences - assuming that the legal system does not step in first to put Bigger to death. Buckley's words are chilling ones, and they are calculated to make the jury feel obligated to vote for execution, so that Bigger gets what white Chicagoans (essentially, bowing to racist mob rule) feel to be his just punishment. 

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Buckley Character Timeline in Native Son

The timeline below shows where the character Buckley appears in Native Son. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...two equally upsetting and unpleasant alternatives. Bigger watches two workers paste up a poster of Buckley, a man who is running for re-election as State’s Attorney. When the workers leave, Bigger... (full context)
Book 3
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
At this point, Buckley, the State’s Attorney whose picture Bigger saw on a poster in the beginning of the... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
At this, Mr. and Mrs. Dalton enter the cell, too. Buckley goes to them and wishes them his condolences for their daughter’s murder. Henry and Mrs.... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
The Thomas family leaves the cell, and Buckley tells Bigger that he’s caused a great deal of pain for everyone around him, and... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Buckley asks Bigger where Bessie is, and tells Bigger he knows that Bigger raped and killed... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Buckley brings in a secretary to take down Bigger’s confession; Buckley makes it seem as though,... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Buckley, as State’s Attorney, is representing the prosecution, and Max, as Bigger’s attorney, enters officially a... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...says he knows what he is doing, and agrees to the please. The judge asks Buckley to begin his case with an opening statement, and Buckley rises, arguing that a mob... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Buckley asks the judge, before Max begins his statement, that Buckley be allowed to call sixty... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Buckley then, after lunch, calls a long parade of witnesses, each of whom can attest only... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Buckley, finally satisfied after several days of witnesses, that the facts of the case have been... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
The court takes a brief recess. Buckley then rises and delivers his closing argument, in which he once again rehearses the details... (full context)