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Literature Study GuidesNative SonFear Book 1 Marys Bedroom And The Basement Summary

Native Son | Study Guide

Richard Wright

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Native Son | Fear, Book 1 (Mary's Bedroom and the Basement) | Summary



Once Mary and Bigger arrive at the mansion, it becomes clear that Mary is too drunk to get to her room without waking the whole house. Bigger helps Mary upstairs and puts her on her bed. Even though he hates her and she is barely conscious, Bigger kisses her and touches her breasts. Then he hears a noise at the door and sees Mrs. Dalton come into the room. Mrs. Dalton, of course, can't see him, but he is afraid he will be discovered if she checks on Mary in the bed because he is standing next to it.

Bigger thinks if he is found in Mary's room he will be accused of raping her. He puts a pillow over Mary's face to keep her quiet so her mother will go away. After Mrs. Dalton leaves, Bigger finds he has smothered Mary by accident. He plans a story to blame Jan for the killing, places Mary's body into her travel trunk, and takes it to the basement. Once in the basement, he decides to dispose of Mary's body in the furnace. However, the body won't fit, so Bigger uses a knife, then an ax, to cut off Mary's head to make it fit. He then cleans up the basement and finds a roll of cash in Mary's purse, which he takes with him back to his own apartment. He falls asleep next to Buddy, planning to tell anyone who asks that he left Mary with Jan and feeling secure that "they" can't prove he did anything.


The irony of Mary's death is that Bigger commits murder in an attempt to avoid being accused of the arguably lesser crime of rape. Bigger is well aware that white people assume rape will happen if a black man is alone with a white woman. If he is caught in Mary's room, that will be the accusation, and he will not be able to give an explanation to counter that accusation. Even though he was helping her to bed when she was unable to stand or walk on her own, that will not save him from the punishment that will follow him being found alone with a white woman.

It complicates matters that Bigger's intentions were not entirely pure once he got Mary into the room. He kisses her, touches her, and becomes aroused. It is not clear what Bigger might have done if Mrs. Dalton had not come to the door, which further fuels his fear of being accused of rape because he knows he is not entirely innocent.

Once Bigger realizes he has killed Mary, his concern is for himself, and he feels no guilt about what he has done. He hated Mary, and his treatment of her body reveals that he barely thought of her as a real person. He goes about the disposal of the remains in an efficient manner, as one might dispose of an object. His dilemma about cutting off her head to make it fit into the furnace is more logistical than moral; he needs the right instrument, and he needs to contain the blood. He has a few flashbacks of Mary alive, but, if he feels remorse at this time, he buries it deep inside himself.

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