Native Son Summary

In Native Son, protagonist Bigger Thomas takes a job working for the wealthy Dalton family. He accidentally kills Mary Dalton, the daughter, and attempts to destroy the evidence by burning her body. In his attempt to flee Chicago, Bigger descends into guilt and fear, which dehumanizes him even further. His story illustrates the devastating effects of racism.

  • Bigger Thomas's entire family lives in a single room. After they move to the South Side of Chicago, he's forced to take a job at the Dalton house in order to support his family.

  • Bigger accidentally kills Mary Dalton after she forces him to drink rum with her. To hide the evidence, he burns her body in the furnace. He's forced to flee, however, when police find some shards of bone along with Mary's earring.

  • Bigger plots with his girlfriend Bessie to extort money from the Daltons. When this fails, he realizes that she can implicate him in Mary's murder, so he kills her. He's later arrested and sentenced to death for his crimes.
Additional Content
  • Overview Summary
  • Synopsis
  • Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)
  • Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)
  • Summary (Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

(The entire section is 6088 words.)