Book 2: Flight Questions and Answers

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 701

Study Questions
1. What experience causes Bigger to look with disgust at his family’s tenement room?

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2. What lie does Bigger tell to Mr. and Mrs. Dalton and Mr. Britten, to make them think that Jan must know something about Mary’s disappearance?

3. Why does Bigger keep the Communist pamphlets Jan has given him, and what happens when they are discovered?

4. Why does Bessie drink liquor, and what does her drinking have to do with her relationship to Bigger?

5. How does Bessie give Bigger the idea to pretend Mary has been kidnapped, and then to try to extort ransom money from the Daltons?

6. How does Bigger use the ransom note to cast suspicion about Mary’s disappearance on the Communists?

7. What does Bigger do that leads to the discovery of Mary’s remains, and why does he do it?

Homework Help

Latest answer posted April 18, 2012, 2:19 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

8. Who finds Mary’s remains, and under what circumstances does he find them?

9. Why does Bigger force Bessie to flee with him, and why does he kill her?

10. What crime besides murder do the whites who are hunting for Bigger assume that he has committed, and why do they assume this? Has Bigger committed this crime?

1. Bigger is filled with disgust and shame at his family’s cramped and dirty room after he has seen the Daltons’ magnificent and spacious home.

2. Bigger tells them that he drove both Jan and Mary back to the Dalton house last night, when in fact he had dropped Jan off and returned home with only Mary.

3. Bigger keeps the pamphlets, because he intends to use them to throw more suspicion on Jan. Ultimately, he manages to do so, but not before Mr. Britten, who discovers the pamphlets, unexpectedly accuses Bigger of being a Communist. Bigger is shaken by the accusation but is able to maintain that he did not want the pamphlets and has not read them, and that Jan forced him to accept them. Britten and Mr. Dalton eventually think what Bigger wants them to think: that Jan is a sly communist who has tried to recruit a simple, innocent Negro servant.

4. The sensation Bessie feels when she is drunk is a pleasant release from the drudgery of her daily routine of working long hours as servant to a white family. She likes Bigger because he gives her money for liquor; he likes her because she allows him to have sex with her.

5. Bessie mentions to Bigger that the Daltons live near “Loeb,” of “Leopold and Loeb.” These were two rich white Chicago youths who, seeking to commit the “perfect crime,” murdered another boy in 1924, and tried to make the victim’s parents pay ransom before the body was found. Both were caught and imprisoned.

6. Bigger signs his note “Red,” which is a slang term for “communist,” and also draws the Communist Party’s hammer-and-sickle emblem (signifying the unity of the workers and farmers against the rich capitalists).

7. Bigger is asked by Peggy to clean out the ash-filled furnace at a time when Britten and his men, and many newspaper reporters are present in the basement. He is understandably afraid to do this, so he just dumps more coal on the already low fire, hoping it will burn hotter. Instead, the coal chokes the fire, filling the basement with smoke.

8. Amidst the smoky confusion caused by Bigger’s miscalculation, an otherwise unidentified newspaper reporter rushes to clean out the furnace, and finds a few of Mary’s bones, and her earring in the ashes.

9. Having fled the Dalton house, Bigger knows that all the police in Chicago will soon be searching for him, and that they will question everyone he knows, including Bessie. With a pitiless and self-serving logic, he forces her to flee with him so that she cannot talk to the police, and then kills her so that he might move from hideout to hideout with greater ease and stealth.

10. The white authorities assume that Bigger raped Mary, and only killed her and burned her body to cover it up. Their assumption reveals that they harbor the crude and deadly racist notion that black men are little more than beasts who cannot resist raping white women. Bigger, of course, did not rape Mary.

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