Native Son

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:

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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:

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.

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.

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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
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
...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)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...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)
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
...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)
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
...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)
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
...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)
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
...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)
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 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)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...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)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
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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Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Max asks if Bigger raped Mary, and Bigger repeats that he did not, although he considered... (full context)
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Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Max asks Bigger if he went to church, if he believes in God, and Bigger says... (full context)
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Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Max goes on to ask Bigger if Bigger has ever voted, or cared about politics in... (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
Max tells Bigger that they will begin by entering a not-guilty plea at Bigger’s arraignment, followed... (full context)
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Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...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)
Whiteness, Blackness, and Racism Theme Icon
Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
Max arrives on the day of Bigger’s trial, tells him to straighten his tie and look... (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
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)
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
...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)
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
...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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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
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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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
Max then begins a long, lyric disquisition on the nature of injustice in the United States.... (full context)
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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
Max states that killing Bigger will not solve the larger problems that face Chicago and the... (full context)
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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
Max says that Bigger did not state, in his deposition at the inquest, or in his... (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
Max closes his argument by stating that sending Bigger to prison would be an act of... (full context)
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Crime and Justice Theme Icon
Death, Life’s Purpose, and the Will to Live Theme Icon
...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)