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Free Study Guide: Native Son by Richard Wright - Free BookNotes

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BOOK 2 - "Flight"

Summary (Continued)

He goes to the kitchen, thinking to avoid suspicion by going through a normal routine. Peggy asks him if he wants breakfast. He feels kindly toward her because he feels as if he has something valuable which she cannot take away from him even if she despised him. Jan calls. After speaking to him, Peggy complains about Mary's "wild ways" but consoles herself that it is only a phase and that Mary will some day settle down.

After breakfast, Bigger goes back down to the basement. He inspects it closely for any signs of the previous night. He goes to his room and lies down He hears Mrs. Dalton talking to Peggy in the kitchen below. He hears them easily when he opens his closet door. Mrs. Dalton is asking Peggy about the car staying out all night long. Mrs. Dalton is worried. She says it is not like Mary to neglect to leave a note. Peggy tells Mrs. Dalton Mary was with Jan last night. Peggy speculates that Mary left with Jan again, like the time she went away with him to Florida. Peggy thinks Mary had Jan call to see if the family knew yet if she was gone. She tells Mrs. Dalton that Mary's bed was not slept in, that it looks as if someone stretched out on it and then left. Mrs. Dalton tells Peggy she knows Mary was drunk last night, that she had gone to Mary's room and could tell she was drunk. The voices are silent for a while and then Bigger hears Mrs. Dalton tell Peggy she has just been up to Mary's room and has found tht Mary did not finish packing her trunk. Bigger becomes afraid because he cannot think of how to explain why Mary would have had him carry her half-packed suitcase downstairs. He decides he will just tell them he did as he was told. He goes over his story again, thinking through every detail.

Mrs. Dalton knocks on his door and questions him. She asks him about each step of the story and when she asks if Mary had him come to her room to get the trunk, he revises his story and tells her Jan went up to Mary's room with her. He knows Mrs. Dalton wants to ask more questions but will not because of the social distance between them. She gives him the rest of the day off. He decides to go and see Bessie. On his way out he goes through the basement. He sees that there is enough coal to last until he comes back.

He realizes he has not thought of Bessie in the last day and night. "He had no need to think of her. But now he had to forget and relax and he wanted to see her." He reassures himself that the Daltons would not suspect him because he is African - American. He feels the money in his pocket and the gun against his skin. He is bothered that he did not get more money out of the whole business. He thinks he should have planned it. He decides that next time he will plan and arrange so that he will have enough money to keep him for a long time.

He looks around at the white passengers on the street car. He has an impulse to stand up and shout out that he had killed Mary Dalton. "He wished that he could be an idea in their minds; that his black face and the image of his smothering Mary and cutting off her head and burning her could hover before their eyes as a terrible picture of reality which they could see and feel and yet not destroy."

He gets to Bessie's apartment and reaches for her. She pulls away. She wants to know what he was doing with two European Americans last night. She wonders why he only waved her away, if he was ashamed of her "sitting there with that white gal all dressing in silk and satin." He grabs her and kisses her hard. He feels that she is not responding, but tells her to take him inside her apartment. Bessie keeps asking about Mary Dalton jealously. He realizes she is teasing him and he likes it because it takes away the image of Mary's bloody head. He shows her money to calm her. She wants to know where he got it. He keeps answering with the question, "Are you going to be sweet to me?" She counts it out as one hundred and twenty-five dollars. They undress and get into bed. "He felt two soft palms holding his face tenderly and the thought and image of the whole blind white world which had made him ashamed and afraid fell away as he felt her as a fallow field beneath him." They have sex. It makes him peaceful like he did not need to long for a home now.

She asks him where the house is where he works. She tells him she used to work in that section. She tells him it was where one of the families of one of the boys who killed the Franks boy. She tells him it was the Loeb and Leopold case. They killed a boy and tried to get money from the boy's family. It gives him the idea to do the same with the Daltons. Bessie keeps questioning him about the money. He decides to use Bessie in the scheme. She keeps asking him questions, wondering if he trusts her and loves her. He thinks of how blind she is. "He felt the narrow orbit of her life from her room to the kitchen of the white folks was the farthest she ever moved." She worked long hours for a white family and only had Sundays off " and when she did get off, she wanted fun, hard and fast fun, something to make her feel that she was making up for the starved life she led." She wanted liquor, and he wanted her, so he gave her liquor for sex. He feels that if he did not give her liquor, she would find someone else who would. He debates on what to tell her of his actions. He decides he needs to tell her in such a way that she thinks she knows everything. He tells her to give him time and he will tell her. They go out. As he walks beside her, he thinks there are two Bessies; one is just a body for sex, and the other is the person who asks him endless questions and "bargains and sells the other Bessie to advantage. He wished he could clench his fist and swing his arm and blot out, kill, sweep away the Bessie on Bessie's face and leave the other helpless and yielding before him."

They go to the Paris Grill. After bargaining with her with hypothetical questions, he tells her Mary Dalton ran away with a communist. He tells her his plan to send a ransom note. What if she shows up, Bessie asks. He tells her she will not. She becomes suspicious, assuming he killed her. He blackmails her with the jobs she told him about at the homes of her white employers. She offers objections to his plans, ways they could get caught, and Bigger responds to each one with an easy and prepared answer. He tells her they can go to New York's Harlem if they have money. Still, she resists. They leave the grill and continue to argue in the snow on the walk home. She tries to convince him to stay with her the way they have been and to forget about his plan. He tries to walk away from her, but she follows him and embraces him. She relents and says she will do it for him. He leaves and feels assured that she is with him in his plan. He feels confident. He walks back to the Dalton house.

Bigger is confident because he imagines that everyone around him is blind. He feels he has his destiny in his grasp. He no longer suffers with shame and anger at being African - American in a racist country. He feels strong in the knowledge that he killed Mary, just as he used to feel when he held his gun and knife. He no longer feels like he is stifling under an invisible and powerful force. In the Dalton's basement, he sees the ashes are piling up in the furnace. He decides he will have to clean them out tomorrow morning. Peggy tells him to pick up the trunk, that it was not retrieved in Detroit and Mary never arrived there. Mrs. Dalton calls him up to the kitchen. Mr. Dalton questions him. Bigger tells him that he went to Mary's room with Mary and Jan and carried the half-empty trunk down to the basement. He sees Mrs. Dalton signal to Mr. Dalton to stop questioning Bigger so closely. Bigger senses that she is ashamed that her daughter was drunk and with a man in her room. Mr. Dalton thinks Mary is "up to some of her foolish pranks." Bigger is sent to the station to pick up the trunk. On the drive, he decides what he will write in his kidnapping note. He returns with the trunk, brings it to the basement, and tries to open its metal clasp.

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