Native Son

Mary Dalton Character Analysis

Daughter of the Daltons, Mary is driven by Bigger on the night of her murder, and the two of them pick up Jan—although Bigger does not want to socialize with Mary and Jan, because their niceness makes him ashamed of his blackness and lack of familiarity with Communism. Bigger then murders Mary, by accident, while trying to “keep her quiet” while Mrs. Dalton is in Mary’s bedroom later that night. Bigger disposes of Mary’s body by putting her in the Dalton family furnace, thus prompting a city-wide search for Mary, and leading, later, to Bigger’s imprisonment and sentencing to execution for his crimes.

Mary Dalton Quotes in Native Son

The Native Son quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Dalton or refer to Mary 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

The reality of the room fell from him; the vast city of white people that sprawled outside took its place. She was dead and he had killed her. He was a murderer, a Negro murderer, a black murderer. He had killed a white woman. He had to get away from here.

Related Characters: Bigger Thomas, Mary Dalton
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

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He was not crying but his lips were trembling and his chest was heaving. He wanted to lie down upon the floor and sleep off the horror of this thing. . . . Quickly, he wrapped the head in the newspaper . . . then he shoved the head in. The hatchet went next.

Related Characters: Bigger Thomas, Mary Dalton
Related Symbols: The Furnace
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2 Quotes

Listen, I just felt around in Mary’s room. Something’s wrong. She didn’t finish packing her trunk. At least half of her things are still there. She said she was planning to go to some dances in Detroit and she didn’t take the new things she bought.

Related Characters: Mrs. Dalton (speaker), Mary Dalton
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

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He was confident. During the last day and night new fears had come, but new feelings had helped to allay those fears. The moment when he had stood above Mary’s bed and found that she was dead the fear of electrocution had entered his flesh and blood. . . . As long as he could take his life into his own hands and dispose of it as he pleased . . . he need not be afraid.

Related Characters: Bigger Thomas, Mary Dalton
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

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You are a Communist, you goddamn black sonofabitch! And you’re going to tell me about Miss Dalton and that Jan bastard!

Related Characters: Britten (speaker), Bigger Thomas, Mary Dalton, Jan
Page Number: 161
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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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:

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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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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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Mary Dalton Character Timeline in Native Son

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Dalton 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
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...a 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... (full context)
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
...house; and his driving will mostly consist of errands needed by the family, and of Mary Dalton’s trips to her lectures at the nearby University of Chicago. (full context)
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
At this, Mary walks into the office, as if on cue; Bigger recognizes her from the news-reel he... (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
After Mary leaves, Bigger worries that he has said something wrong about unions and capitalism, but Henry,... (full context)
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Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Peggy also tells Bigger that Mary is a good child but “wild,” that she runs around with a crowd the Daltons... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
After getting and drinking his water, Bigger realizes it’s about time to take Mary to her lecture. He checks out the car he will drive—a dark, late-model Buick, and... (full context)
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
They arrive at an apartment in the outer Loop, and Jan, the man Mary was with in the news-reel Bigger saw earlier that day, comes out to introduce himself... (full context)
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
...Bigger stews on these thoughts as Jan continues driving the car around Chicago. Jan and Mary say that want to eat somewhere in “Bigger’s neighborhood,” meaning the Black Belt, and after... (full context)
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Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
While en route to the diner, Mary remarks that, although she has traveled to many parts of Europe, she does not know... (full context)
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
...trouble choking down (because of his nervousness, which has caused his throat to become dry), Mary and Jan ask about Bigger’s upbringing. Bigger speaks in monosyllables, saying that he was born... (full context)
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
...then tells Bigger that he (Jan) is a member of the Communist party, with which Mary sympathizes, and that the Communists are working for the betterment of all people, especially those... (full context)
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Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Bigger, Mary, and Jan are all fairly drunk from the significant amount of alcohol they’ve consumed while... (full context)
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Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
After briefly trying to sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and asking Bigger to sing along, Mary and Jan decide that it’s probably time to call it a night—Mary has to get... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
...to discuss the pamphlets with Bigger the next time they meet. Jan says goodbye to Mary, who at this point is quite intoxicated but is still conscious; Mary gets into the... (full context)
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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 half supports, half drags Mary upstairs, up the back staircase, and when he reaches the second floor, he asks her... (full context)
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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 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... (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
Mrs. Dalton walks over to Mary, smells the rum on her body, and, remarking that she’s “drunk,” walks quickly back out... (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
...can then create an alibi, in which Jan was the last person to speak to Mary alive. This will turn all suspicion onto Jan. Bigger also remembers that Mary was to... (full context)
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Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
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Bigger, with great effort, manages to fold Mary’s body in half and stuff it into the trunk; he then pulls the latch of... (full context)
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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
...back outside, where he sees that the door to the Buick is still open, with Mary’s purse inside. He decides to leave the Buick there, with the door ajar, but takes... (full context)
Book 2
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Bigger awakes and realizes, just as his eyes open, that his has killed Mary and stuffed her body in a furnace; the events of the previous night, at the... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
...Bigger then decides that, in the hour and a half before he is to take Mary’s trunk to the train station, he will pack and work further on his alibi, to... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
...ought to pretend he does not have the cash he has in fact stolen from Mary’s purse, Bigger asks his mother for a half-dollar, which she gives him. Bigger walks out... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
...staircase; Buddy hands his brother the large wad of cash that had fallen out of Mary’s purse, which Bigger thought he had stuffed securely in his pocket. Buddy asks where the... (full context)
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Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...him to the Daltons’, Bigger appears positive about his plans, believing that, when news of Mary’s death is revealed, everyone will immediately blame Jan and his “red” (Communist) companions. (full context)
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...look to the furnace immediately. Peggy tells Bigger that it is nearly time to take Mary to the station; Bigger begins his alibi, telling Peggy that Mary had him keep the... (full context)
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...upstairs to get dressed, and Bigger goes down to the furnace-room, where he fears that Mary’s body might still be visible among the coals—or, even worse, that the body has somehow,... (full context)
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Peggy returns to the kitchen and asks if Bigger has seen Mary come downstairs yet that day; Bigger says that he has not, and Peggy, not knowing... (full context)
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Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...he has no appetite, but agrees to eat some oatmeal and milk. Peggy asks who Mary was with the night before, and Bigger says it was Jan, while also insinuating that... (full context)
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Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...Dalton asks Peggy why the car was in the driveway all night; Peggy responds that Mary is not in her room, that her bed appears not to have been slept in,... (full context)
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Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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But Mrs. Dalton responds that Mary was in her room at two a.m. the night before—when Mrs. Dalton crept in and... (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
...asking about the events of the previous night. Bigger knows that Mrs. Dalton’s embarrassment about Mary’s disappearance—which she believes is a result of Mary’s sexual impropriety with Jan—will cause her not... (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
...or see her, but now he shows her the wad of money he’s taken from Mary’s purse, making it seem like the money was given to him by the Daltons; he... (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
...decides, on the fly, to tell Bessie a half-true version of what has happened to Mary. He says that Mary has eloped with Jan, that no one can find the couple,... (full context)
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Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...it exposes her to criminal prosecution—and, most of all, since she can’t be sure that Mary wouldn’t return on her own. Bigger makes it seem that it’s very unlikely Mary would... (full context)
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...and runs into Peggy, who tells Bigger that Mrs. Dalton wants him to pick up Mary’s trunk from the train station, since the family has called to Detroit and Mary has... (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, lying to keep his alibi straight, says that Jan returned to the house with Mary, that Mary told Bigger to take the trunk down to the basement, and that Jan... (full context)
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...one Bigger burned the night before in the furnace, after using it to chop off Mary’s head. Bigger feigns looking for the hatchet and says it’s not in the furnace room—Britten... (full context)
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Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...story, in order to convince the Daltons and the authorities that Jan is responsible for Mary’s disappearance. Bigger tells the story of the night more or less as it happened, except... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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...a Communist, and if Bigger is therefore in on Jan’s plot to kidnap or hurt Mary. But Bigger, genuinely frightened, says that he doesn’t know anything about Communism, and that he... (full context)
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...not come back to the Daltons’, nor did he tell Bigger to do anything with Mary’s trunk. Jan wonders, genuinely, who or what has put Bigger up to lying about the... (full context)
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...and that Jan ought to leave the premises. Jan, confused as to Bigger’s motivations and Mary’s whereabouts, leaves the house, and Bigger, in a kind of rage, walks out into the... (full context)
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Bessie comes up to Bigger after he finishes the note, asking once again where Mary is, and if Bigger knows about her whereabouts—she begins to think that Bigger himself has... (full context)
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Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...that he has committed himself to this additional ruse, on top of already having murdered Mary, but he feels, too, that he is powerful enough to pull off the trick. Bigger... (full context)
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Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...renewed urgency: what Bigger did the night before, what Bigger saw, how Jan behaved with Mary, what Jan told him to do with the trunk. Bigger repeats his story and makes... (full context)
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...(it is still Sunday, the day after the crime was committed). The reporters ask if Mary is missing, if Jan is responsible, if Jan has been arrested, and what Dalton plans... (full context)
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...however, and announces that he would like to make a statement after all regarding his daughter’s disappearance. Mrs. Dalton follows him down the stairs, and the reporters gasp at her white,... (full context)
Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...wonders if the plan will work as he intended. The reporters go upstairs to check Mary’s room for more clues, and when they return to the furnace room, they find Bigger... (full context)
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Capitalism and Communism Theme Icon
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Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...it. Bigger realizes that, if he cleans out the ashes, there might be chunks of Mary’s body that have not yet burned—he is filled with fear at having to stoke the... (full context)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
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Anger and Charity Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...the white chunks of bone are in the ash, and that they probably belong to Mary’s body, which has burnt in the furnace and choked it with ash and debris. Bigger... (full context)
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Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...jail. As the reporters are combing through the ashes and wondering who is responsible for Mary’s death and cremation, Bigger walks quietly out of the furnace room, climbs the steps, and... (full context)
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Bigger tells Bessie everything—that he truly did kill Mary, and that the reporters found her body in the furnace; that he ran away from... (full context)
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Bigger goes to the 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... (full context)
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...is being hunted by the Chicago Police, that they believe he murdered and possibly raped Mary, and that thousands of officers, and some vigilantes, are walking the streets of the Black... (full context)
Book 3
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...water since his capture. Presumably the Daltons and Jan are in the morgue to identify Mary’s body; after seeing them, Bigger falls into a swoon, and awakes on a cot in... (full context)
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...for him (Jan) to accept that Bigger had lied and tried to blame Jan for Mary’s murder, Jan now understands that Bigger was offended by Jan’s gestures of kindness when they... (full context)
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...enter the cell, too. Buckley goes to them and wishes them his condolences for their daughter’s murder. Henry and Mrs. Dalton say that they only wanted to help Bigger and send... (full context)
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...to the Communist Party. Bigger continues to deny that Jan had anything to do with Mary’s murder, and Bigger also denies that he raped Mary, although he did rape Bessie. (full context)
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...hope is lost, and 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... (full context)
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...earring she once owner, and her mother before her; Mrs. Dalton gave that earring to Mary when she turned 18. The deputy coroner goes on to ask what Mrs. Dalton saw... (full context)
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...aloud, saying that Jan is not on trial, and that the fact that Jan and Mary were drinking that night should not be used to implicate Jan in Mary’s murder. (full context)
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...launches into a series of leading questions against Jan, asking whether Jan would approve of Mary marrying an African American, whether Jan got Mary and Bigger drunk in order to facilitate... (full context)
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...is taken out of the car, to “go through the motions” of how he killed Mary, how he took her down to the furnace room and attempted to burn her body.... (full context)
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Max asks if Bigger raped Mary, and Bigger repeats that he did not, although he considered it briefly when he was... (full context)
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...Dalton home, to show to the jury that Bigger could indeed have fit and burned Mary’s body in that device. (full context)
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...that African Americans have equal access to fulfilling employment. Max goes on to say that Mary wanted to help Bigger, and for that she was killed—this is Bigger’s fault, but killing... (full context)
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...of courage—it 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... (full context)