Study Guide

Mr. Henry Dalton in Native Son

By Richard Wright

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Mr. Henry Dalton

Mr. Dalton, Bigger’s employer, positions himself as a liberal, progressive white citizen of Chicago. In reality, he's pretty much a racist. Sure, he's not actively evil or cruel, but he fails to recognize how he actively exploits the system of racial segregation in order to gain more wealth. Bigger’s lawyer points out that Mr. Dalton attempts to soothe his conscience by donating generous amounts of money to "uplift" the black citizens of Chicago.

Mr. Dalton is a confirmed believer in capitalism which, as presented in Native Son, is another system that extracts cheap labor from the working classes in order to enrich the already wealthy upper class. His distaste for the revolutionary exploits of Mary and Jan is mitigated only by his love for his daughter. This is ultimately what makes him a sympathetic character. The narrator presents him as a misguided philanthropist who lacks a sophisticated understanding of social realities.

Mr. Henry Dalton in Native Son Study Group

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