Native Son

Bessie Character Analysis

Bigger’s girlfriend, Bessie tends to go along with what Bigger wants, although when Bigger asks her to help generate a ransom from the supposed “kidnapping” of Mary, Bessie breaks down and worries that her life is ruined. Bigger later rapes and murders Bessie, fearing that she will tell the authorities of Bigger’s guilt; Bessie’s body is found by the police and exhibited at the inquest, causing Bigger to faint out of shock.

Bessie Quotes in Native Son

The Native Son quotes below are all either spoken by Bessie or refer to Bessie. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of Native Son published in 1993.
Book 2 Quotes

A woman was a dangerous burden when a man was running away. He had read of how men had been caught because of women, and he did not want that to happen to him. But, if, yes, but if he told her, yes, just enough to get her to work with him?

Related Characters: Bigger Thomas, Bessie
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

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Yeah; I killed the girl . . . Now, you know. You’ve got to help me. You in it as deep as me! You done spent some of the money . . . .

Related Characters: Bigger Thomas (speaker), Mary Dalton, Bessie
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Book 3 Quotes

NEGRO KILLER SIGNS CONFESSIONS FOR TWO MURDERS. SHRINKS AT INQUEST WHEN CONFRONTED WITH BODY OF SLAIN GIRL. ARRAIGNED TOMORROW. REDS TAKE CHARGE OF KILLER’S DEFENSE. NOT GUILTY PLEAS LIKELY.

Related Characters: Bigger Thomas, Mary Dalton, Bessie
Page Number: 341
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est labor

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:

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Bessie Character Timeline in Native Son

The timeline below shows where the character Bessie 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
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...buy him fried chicken and beer. Bigger assents to this, and Bigger notices his “girl,” Bessie, sitting on the other side of the diner—he does not wave to her, but they... (full context)
Book 2
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
...prepares breakfast for the family, and as she is doing so, Buddy tells Bigger that Bessie came by their apartment the night before, telling Bigger’s family that she saw Bigger at... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Bigger decides that he will take the afternoon and visit with Bessie, his girlfriend, whom he glanced briefly the night before at Ernie’s. He rides a streetcar... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Bigger arrives at Bessie’s small, squalid apartment, and greets her cheerfully. Bessie does not know “what’s gotten into” Bigger,... (full context)
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Bessie is alarmed at the sight of all this cash, and asks Bigger several times where... (full context)
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Bessie continues to ask Bigger about the nature of what he’s been up to, and Bigger... (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
Bigger decides, on the fly, to tell Bessie a half-true version of what has happened to Mary. He says that Mary has eloped... (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
Bigger and Bessie leave the bar; Bessie is worried about the plan, since it is so obviously illegal,... (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
...gruffly asks for some paper, a pencil, 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... (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
...following evening at midnight, in small bills, to a stretch of Michigan Avenue on which Bessie will be stationed, in an abandoned apartment—when the car sees a flashlight shine three times,... (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
Bessie comes up to Bigger after he finishes the note, asking once again where Mary is,... (full context)
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
They leave Bessie’s apartment and head to Michigan Avenue; Bigger has brought a flashlight along, and they duck... (full context)
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
Bigger gets Bessie, finally and grudgingly, to agree to wait for the “drop-off” of the money the following... (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
...but he also realizes that he still has his gun. He begins to walk to Bessie’s house. (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
On his way to a tram-stop, which will take him to Bessie’s, Bigger stops at a kiosk and buys a copy of a newspaper, in which he... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Bigger tells Bessie everything—that he truly did kill Mary, and that the reporters found her body in 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
Bigger and Bessie leave Bessie’s apartment and walk outside for several blocks, until they find a different abandoned... (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
...air-shaft once again and thinks about his murder of Mary and his current situation with Bessie—he worries to himself that Bessie will not be able to keep quiet and go along... (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
Bigger holds the brick above Bessie’s head and hesitates for a moment, wondering if he can kill again, but soon this... (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
Bigger dumps Bessie’s body down the air-shaft, only to realize, after he’s done so, that Bessie had Bigger’s... (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
Buckley asks Bigger where Bessie is, and tells Bigger he knows that Bigger raped and killed Bessie. Buckley tries to... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...begins narrating exactly what happened on the night in question, including Mary’s murder and then Bessie’s the next night. The secretary takes it all down, and Bigger signs it. The secretary... (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 trial, he finds it necessary to bring into the courtroom the mutilated body of Bessie, about whom Bigger has thought very little since her murder. Max and Bigger are both... (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
...would mean that the court avoided mere vengeance and still delivered justice to Mary’s and Bessie’s families and to the city of Chicago. But sending Bigger to prison would also indicate... (full context)