Native Son

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Max Character Analysis

Bigger’s defense attorney at his trial, Max is a Jewish-American Communist who believes that the oppressive white majority of Chicago does all it can to “keep down” people of color and members of trade unions. Max sympathizes with Bigger because he, too, is a victim of discrimination, based on his political and religious beliefs. Although Max does not succeed in helping Bigger avoid execution, Bigger is nonetheless grateful to Max for speaking to him as a human being.

Max Quotes in Native Son

The Native Son quotes below are all either spoken by Max or refer to Max . 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

Now listen, Mr. Max. No question asked in this room will inflame the public mind any more than has the death of Mary Dalton, and you know it. You have the right to question any of these witnesses, but I will not tolerate any publicity-seeking by your kind here!

Related Characters: Deputy coroner (speaker), Mary Dalton , Max
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

The deputy coroner, who is handling the prosecution in the case at this preliminary stage, does all that he can to stoke the flames of white anger in Chicago. A great many people are violently angry at Bigger for killing a white woman - and the racist elements in that city see this murder as an inevitable part of the racial violence they believe to exist in the Black Belt. In other words, the deputy coroner wants the jury, composed of white men, to see this as a crime of racial score-setting on Bigger's part - in the hopes that this race-baiting attitude will cause them to convict Bigger and sentence him to death.

Max, on his side, tries to show that Bigger is a human being who made a series of horrible mistakes and who committed terrible crimes - but that he is a human being all the same, and therefore deserving of human sympathy. But the deputy coroner disputes this in court as mere "publicity-seeking" - that is, the deputy coroner believes that any defense that Max offers is fundamentally out of line, since, to him, Bigger is indefensible. 

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Isn’t it true that you refuse to rent houses to Negroes if those houses are in other sections of the city?
Why, yes.
Why?
Well, it’s an old custom.

Related Characters: Max (speaker), Mr. Dalton
Page Number: 327
Explanation and Analysis:

Max exposes what he believes to be Mr. Dalton's hypocrisy when it comes to the African American populations in Chicago. Mr. Dalton professes that he has done, and continues to do, all that he can to help those in the Chicago community - that his life, outside his business interests, is one of a philanthropist. But, as Max reveals, this life is far more complicated. Dalton charges African Americans very high rents, and tends not to rent to black families in his "white" buildings. He sees nothing wrong or contradictory in this, either.

In essence, Mr. Dalton's views on race are separatist, if not segregationist. He believes that white and black communities are fundamentally different - they may not always be opposed - but he does what he can to offer a "helping hand" to black families. Even this, again, he only does within limits - he does not believe in putting black families on any sort of equal footing with white families. But Dalton does believe that his efforts to help charitably in the city, both in white and black populations, have been sincere ones. 

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Max Character Timeline in Native Son

The timeline below shows where the character Max 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
...fees, probably having to do with the Communist party, and Jan says that his friend Max is the best lawyer the party has in Chicago. Bigger does not understand much about... (full context)
Book 3
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Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...but Bigger realizes that Jan wants to help; Jan asks Bigger if he can send Max, the Communist Party lawyer who is also a public defender, to be Bigger’s lawyer; although... (full context)
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...on a poster in the beginning of the novel, walks into the cell as well. Max tells Buckley immediately that Bigger will be signing no confessions; Buckley, who is contemptuous of... (full context)
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...of crimes on them, but the boys wouldn’t confess and were helped by Jan and Max, who have also volunteered to defend the gang. Ma pulls Vera, Buddy, and Bigger into... (full context)
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...best thing to do is to confess to everything, avoid trial, and receive his punishment. Max and Jan also leave the cell, with the preacher and the members of the gang.... (full context)
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...events of the night in question; soon after the deputy coroner begins his interrogation, however, Max objects aloud, saying that Jan is not on trial, and that the fact that Jan... (full context)
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...questions about the nature of his charitable work in the African American community in Chicago. Max then rises to cross-examine Dalton; he asks whether it’s true that Dalton owns the South... (full context)
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...the mutilated body of Bessie, about whom Bigger has thought very little since her murder. Max and Bigger are both shocked that this is possible; many in the room are shocked... (full context)
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...life, even while incarcerated. A guard comes buy and gives Bigger a newspaper (sent by Max) and tells Bigger that Max has also arranged for Bigger to get new clothes while... (full context)
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Bigger is told by a guard that Max is here to see him; Bigger is taken to an interview room where he and... (full context)
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Max asks if Bigger raped Mary, and Bigger repeats that he did not, although he considered... (full context)
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Max asks Bigger if he went to church, if he believes in God, and Bigger says... (full context)
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Max goes on to ask Bigger if Bigger has ever voted, or cared about politics in... (full context)
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Max tells Bigger that they will begin by entering a not-guilty plea at Bigger’s arraignment, followed... (full context)
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...says that he has been. Bigger receives another newspaper, sent to him in jail by Max, which shows that the Governor of Illinois has ordered the National Guard to protect the... (full context)
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Max arrives on the day of Bigger’s trial, tells him to straighten his tie and look... (full context)
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Buckley, as State’s Attorney, is representing the prosecution, and Max, as Bigger’s attorney, enters officially a plea of guilty, which is a change from the... (full context)
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...his back,” hoping that “justice is served” in Bigger’s case. Buckley makes it seem that Max is putting forward an insanity defense on Bigger’s behalf (to which Max vociferously objects), and... (full context)
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Buckley asks the judge, before Max begins his statement, that Buckley be allowed to call sixty witnesses for the prosecution against... (full context)
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...of witnesses, that the facts of the case have been established, rests his case, and Max agrees, as the defense, that the facts Buckley has presented are true (if overwhelming in... (full context)
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The case recommences the next day. Max begins a long, impassioned speech on Bigger’s behalf, arguing not that Bigger deserves total clemency,... (full context)
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Max then begins a long, lyric disquisition on the nature of injustice in the United States.... (full context)
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Max states that killing Bigger will not solve the larger problems that face Chicago and the... (full context)
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Max says that Bigger did not state, in his deposition at the inquest, or in his... (full context)
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Max closes his argument by stating that sending Bigger to prison would be an act of... (full context)
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...of Bigger’s crimes (while saying that he will not rehearse these details); Buckley also attributes Max’s motive, in his plea for Bigger’s life, not to a general humanistic spirit but to... (full context)
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Bigger and Max are called back into court after recess, and the verdict is delivered swiftly and as... (full context)
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Max visits Bigger in his jail cell in the days before his execution. Max apologizes to... (full context)
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Max is greatly moved by Bigger’s sentiments, and he takes Bigger to a window in his... (full context)
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As Max is getting ready to leave, Bigger says that he’s not sure why he killed, but... (full context)