Suggested Essay Topics
Book One: Fear
1. Compare and contrast Bigger’s attitude toward the world around him with Mrs. Thomas’.
2. Bigger and his friends discuss the choices in life available to whites, as opposed to those available to African Americans. They also “play white,” a game they have invented. In light of the interaction that takes place on these pages, what does “freedom of choice” mean to Bigger, and how important is it to him?
3. Mr. Dalton and Jan Erlone both profess to be friendly toward African Americans, yet they are hostile to each other. Compare and contrast their attitudes toward African Americans and explain their mutual hostility.
4. Discuss Bigger’s reasoning for stifling Mary’s moans, rather than simply admitting to Mrs. Dalton that he had to help her daughter upstairs because she was drunk.
Book Two: Flight
1. Bigger has killed Mary accidentally, yet he soon convinces himself that what he has done was no accident, and that it was right and natural. He even feels a sense of elation about it. Discuss the reasons that lead him to feel this way.
2. Describe some of the many ways in which Bessie Mears, Bigger’s girlfriend, is trapped in a life that is not of her own choosing.
3. Mr. Dalton’s private investigator, Mr. Britten, alternately expresses his hatred of African Americans and of Communists. After he interrogates Bigger, he thinks to himself that...
(The entire section is 480 words.)