Native Son

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Mr. Dalton Character Analysis

Father of Mary and Bigger’s employer, Mr. Dalton is a wealthy real-estate magnate in the South Side of Chicago, and his company owns the apartment building in which Bigger and his family live. Mr. Dalton claims that he donates a good deal of money to African American charities, and that he hires black workers in order to help them. But as Max points out in the trial, Mr. Dalton’s help is paternalistic, at best, and serves only to make life marginally better for African Americans while continuing to funnel the meager incomes of the Black Belt toward Dalton’s highly profitable real-estate company.

Mr. Dalton Quotes in Native Son

The Native Son quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Dalton or refer to Mr. Dalton. 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 1 Quotes

He hated himself at that moment. Why was he acting and feeling this way? He wanted to wave his hand and blot out the white man who was making him feel this.

Related Characters: Bigger Thomas, Mr. Dalton
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

During his meeting with Henry Dalton, Bigger is terrified he will say the wrong thing - that he won't know how to behave around a man with so much money and power. Indeed, Dalton owns the very apartment building in which the Thomas family lives. But Bigger is struck by another impulse - that he is angry at Mr. Dalton for causing him to feel the way he does, for forcing Bigger, through no overt exertion of power, to be silent, to stumble for his words.

Thus Bigger realizes, in his interactions in the Dalton house, just how power can operate outside the "Black Belt" community in which he was born and raised. There, violence is a major way of effecting power, of getting people to do what you want. But in this part of the South Side, where the Daltons live, power is exercised in an entirely different way - with persuasion, with money, with the idea that certain activities are reserved for certain higher levels of society. 

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Book 3 Quotes

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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Mr. Dalton Character Timeline in Native Son

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Dalton appears in Native Son. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...breakfast, prepared by Ma, and Ma reminds Bigger that he has an appointment with a Mr. Dalton that evening at 5:30, about a job. Ma reminds Bigger that this job would... (full context)
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...Vera reminds Bigger, once again, that it is very important Bigger take the job with Mr. Dalton, as the family needs the money. Bigger curses Vera under his breath as Vera... (full context)
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...news reel, depicting a Chicago heiress in Florida and her young lover—the heiress is Mary Dalton, daughter of Mr. Dalton, the man with whom Bigger is to interview later that day;... (full context)
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...to grow dark outside; she says it is time for him to walk to the Daltons’ house in Hyde Park, near Bigger’s “Black Belt” neighborhood, but in the “white” section of... (full context)
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Bigger walks up to the Daltons’ house and, not knowing where the “service” or back entrance is located, decides, nervously, to... (full context)
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Henry asks Bigger for his “relief paperwork,” or the document given by the Chicago workers’ relief... (full context)
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Henry, consulting the paperwork, sees that Bigger is a “hard worker” if given a job he... (full context)
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...what a union is, and as to what to say to Mary, says nothing, and Henry tells his daughter not to grill Bigger about his political views at this first meeting.... (full context)
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...Mary leaves, Bigger worries that he has said something wrong about unions and capitalism, but Henry, perhaps sensing Bigger’s unease, tells Bigger that he (Henry) is a supporter of the NAACP,... (full context)
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Peggy tells Bigger more about the Dalton family as he eats bacon and eggs in the kitchen, after Henry has left—Bigger has... (full context)
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Bigger lies on his new bed in the Dalton house for a moment, and thinks about the things, including a gold watch, he’ll be... (full context)
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...a Loop train back to his apartment, and Bigger and Mary drive back to the Daltons’ house. When they arrive, Bigger parks the Buick in front of, but not inside, the... (full context)
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Bigger hears a sound as he lies atop Mary in Mary’s bedroom—it is Mrs. Dalton, who has heard the commotion on the stairs and who has come to Mary’s... (full context)
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Mrs. Dalton walks over to Mary, smells the rum on her body, and, remarking that she’s... (full context)
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...is to blame the murder on Jan, whom he can say came back to the Daltons’ house (instead of being dropped off, as he was, downtown near the park); Bigger can... (full context)
Book 2
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...and stuffed her body in a furnace; the events of the previous night, at the Dalton house, were real. He quickly realizes that, although the rest of his family is still... (full context)
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Walking back to the Daltons’, Bigger stops off in a drugstore, where he finds G.H. at the soda counter. Bigger... (full context)
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On the tram-ride to the Daltons’, Bigger thinks about the possibility, however improbable it might seem, of a large group of... (full context)
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Bigger’s musings are cut short by the end of his tram-ride; he arrives at the Dalton house, and, entering, is wished good morning by Peggy, who tells Bigger that he ought... (full context)
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...downstairs yet that day; Bigger says that he has not, and Peggy, not knowing how Mr. and Mrs. Dalton will react when they wake up, tells Bigger to take Mary’s trunk... (full context)
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When he returns to the Daltons’ house, Bigger is asked by Peggy if he’d like any breakfast; he has no appetite,... (full context)
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Bigger, in his room, hears Mrs. Dalton and Peggy talking in the hall; he goes into a closet in his bedroom,... (full context)
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But Mrs. Dalton responds that Mary was in her room at two a.m. the night before—when Mrs.... (full context)
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Some time passes, which Bigger spends dozing in his room. Mrs. Dalton has Peggy ring for Bigger; Bigger hears it on the third ring, and Mrs.... (full context)
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...the idea that he might have pretended to kidnap Mary to extort more from the Daltons. (full context)
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...from Mary’s purse, making it seem like the money was given to him by the Daltons; he promises to be sweet to Bessie from now on, and says that she can... (full context)
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...tells her he’ll meet with her the following night. On his walk back to the Daltons’ house, Bigger thinks on the “blindness” he has seen, from Bessie to his mother to... (full context)
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...he, Bigger, can see, makes Bigger feel proud of his own strength. He reaches the Daltons’ house, and runs into Peggy, who tells Bigger that Mrs. Dalton wants him to pick... (full context)
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Mr. and Mrs. Dalton come down to the kitchen to speak with Bigger before he leaves... (full context)
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Bigger goes to the train station, picks up the trunk, and returns to the Dalton house. He thinks, en route, that he will have to “fasten” his story straight in... (full context)
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...the time to go into more detail with his story, in order to convince the Daltons and the authorities that Jan is responsible for Mary’s disappearance. Bigger tells the story of... (full context)
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...only following orders the previous night, the first night of his new job at the Daltons’ house. Henry seems convinced by Bigger’s innocence—by the idea that Bigger is as scared of... (full context)
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Bigger goes back up to his room and hears Mr. Dalton and Britten talking in the kitchen. Dalton defends Bigger, in his typically paternalistic way,... (full context)
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...is being called from below. When he arises, he answers the door to find Jan, Mr. Dalton, and Britten wanting to speak with him. The three come into Bigger’s room. Britten... (full context)
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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...although he gave Bigger some Communist literature, he, Jan, did not come back to the Daltons’, nor did he tell Bigger to do anything with Mary’s trunk. Jan wonders, genuinely, who... (full context)
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...of the house, Jan runs into Bigger, who has gone down the staircase (Britten and Mr. Dalton have already left Bigger’s room to discuss matters further); Jan asks Bigger, again, why... (full context)
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...and an envelope, then rides the tram-car to Bessie’s apartment, remarking along the way that Mr. Dalton’s company owns the apartment house in which Bigger was raised, and probably the one... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
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...scout locations for an abandoned apartment, wherein Bessie can wait, the following night, for the Dalton family’s drop-off of the ten thousand dollars. (full context)
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...he will see her soon. Bigger walks through the snowy, cold night back to the Daltons’ house, where he goes up to the front door furtively and drops the ransom note,... (full context)
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...hallway, and set it on the table in the kitchen—Bigger eyes the envelope nervously, until Mr. Dalton comes in and takes it away. While Peggy tells Bigger that he should be... (full context)
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Bigger goes back up to his room, from which he can hear a commotion downstairs. Henry has called Britten over to the house once again, and Britten immediately begins asking questions... (full context)
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Britten goes upstairs for a moment to talk to Henry, then returns to say that Dalton will not have anything official to say on the... (full context)
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Mr. Dalton comes downstairs, however, and announces that he would like to make a statement after... (full context)
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The reporters ask if the Daltons plan on paying the ransom, and Henry replies that he will, and will follow the... (full context)
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...talk to Bigger. Bigger tells the reporters that he really can’t say anything more than Mr. Dalton has just told them, and during their conversation, another reporter, who has gone upstairs... (full context)
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...what will happen to him if he’s free to walk around; other reporters, however, believe Mr. Dalton’s hunch, that Jan has nothing to do with the kidnapping. Some of the reporters... (full context)
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...that the reporters found her body in the furnace; that he ran away from the Dalton house and will be hunted by the police; that he only has 90 dollars left,... (full context)
Book 3
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Bigger is led by police to the Cook County Morgue, where he spots Mr. and Mrs. Dalton and Jan, though Bigger cannot speak to them—he is nearly in a... (full context)
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At this, Mr. and Mrs. Dalton enter the cell, too. Buckley goes to them and wishes them his... (full context)
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...and prays loudly for Bigger’s soul. On their way out of the cell, Ma asks Mrs. Dalton, who has been standing in the corner with her husband, not to have the... (full context)
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...hearing in which “facts regarding the case” are established. This will require members of the Dalton family to testify; Bigger looks on as Mrs. Dalton is sworn in and handed a... (full context)
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...prejudicial questions being asked; Jan is told to sit down, and the deputy coroner calls Henry Dalton to testify. (full context)
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The deputy coroner quickly asks Mr. Dalton a few questions about the nature of his charitable work in the African American... (full context)
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...him a “black ape.” Bigger is then taken quickly by the authorities back to the Dalton house, where the police ask him, once he is taken out of the car, to... (full context)
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On his way out of the Dalton house, once again led by police with weapons drawn, Bigger is spat on by a... (full context)
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...Bigger’s gang. A small girl even climbs inside a mock-up of the furnace in the Dalton home, to show to the jury that Bigger could indeed have fit and burned Mary’s... (full context)