Native Son Book 2: Flight Summary and Analysis
by Richard Wright

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Book 2: Flight Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Mr. Britten: a private investigator hired by Mr. Dalton to find Mary

Britten’s assistants: three otherwise unidentified white men

Various newspapermen: present in the Dalton home, reporting on Mary’s disappearance

Mayor Ditz: mayor of Chicago

Glenman: chief of police

Horace Minton: superintendent of schools

White vigilantes: deputized by Glenman to hunt for Bigger

Early the next morning, Bigger awakes in his house, horrified at what he has done. Fear and the desire to flee are always with him now, but he nevertheless continues to act according to his original plan. He disposes of Mary’s purse and a bloody knife in a nearby garbage pail. He keeps her money. He returns to his house for his clothes, and his mother wakes up. She is happy that he has such a good job, but she does not understand why he remains so sullen, or why he insists he came home at 2 a.m., when she knows he came home at 4 a.m.. Bigger eats with his family. Buddy, his brother, suspects something is wrong, especially when he retrieves a wad of bills Bigger has dropped on the floor. Bigger warns Buddy to keep quiet about the money, and takes his suitcase and heads out to the Daltons’ house. First, he stops briefly at the corner drugstore, where he encounters Gus, G.H., and Jack. He rekindles his friendships, and with Mary’s money buys them beer and cigarettes, and gives each a dollar bill.

At the Dalton house, he finds only Peggy is awake. It is Sunday morning, and Mr. and Mrs. Dalton are sleeping late. Peggy wants to know why the car is in the driveway, and Bigger tells her that Mary told him to leave it there, and that Jan was with her at the time. He checks the furnace and is satisfied that Mary’s body has burned up in the night. When Peggy discovers that Mary is not at home, she is puzzled, because she knows Mary must leave on a train for Detroit soon. She tells Bigger to take her trunk to the railroad station anyway, which he does. Mrs. Dalton comes downstairs, worried about Mary. She interviews Peggy and then speaks to Bigger, who has returned from the station. Her concern about Mary heightens when Bigger tells her that Jan was present at the house last night. She does not at all suspect Bigger, and gives him the rest of the day off.

Bigger goes to see Bessie, who is initially jealous of Mary, but Bigger assures her that the white people he was with at Ernie’s Kitchen Shack the previous night are only his employers. Bessie softens, and the two make tender love. However, Bessie is suspicious of the money Bigger shows her, and remarks eerily that the Daltons happen to live in the same neighborhood as Richard Loeb. Loeb, along with his partner in crime Leopold, were two rich youths who committed a spectacular murder in 1924, and then tried to extract ransom money from the victim’s father. Bigger eventually tells Bessie that Mary has eloped with her Communist boyfriend and that her parents have no idea where she is. He also suggests that he and Bessie could extort ransom too, the way Leopold and Loeb attempted to do. Bessie’s fears about what Bigger has done to Mary mount, and she begins to cry. She is certain that she will be drawn into Bigger’s criminal scheme even though she wants no part of it. Bigger assures her that everything will be all right, and then he returns to the Dalton house.

Mr. Dalton probes Bigger further, but Mrs. Dalton signals him to stop, out of embarrassment that their Negro servant has seen Mary drunk. The Daltons then instruct Bigger to return to the railroad station and retrieve Mary’s trunk, which has of course remained there unclaimed. On the drive over he works out his plan to extort $10,000 ransom from the Daltons. When Bigger returns with the trunk, he is again interrogated, this time by Mr. Britten, a private investigator Mr. Dalton has hired. While playing the role of a simple-minded servant, Bigger cleverly manipulates Britten’s hatred of Communists, and gets him to think that Jan Erlone is...

(The entire section is 2,609 words.)