Literature Study GuidesNative SonFlight Book 2 Brittens Questions Summary

Native Son | Study Guide

Richard Wright

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Native Son | Flight, Book 2 (Britten's Questions) | Summary



Bigger's first task after he returns to the Daltons' is to collect Mary's trunk from the station, because she never claimed it or boarded the train. When he returns from this errand, he meets Mr. Dalton and Mr. Britten, a private detective, in the basement. Britten looks in the trunk and confirms it is only half packed. Britten then asks Bigger a series of questions about last night. Bigger recounts the events of the evening out with Jan and Mary. Then he adds that Jan came back to the house with him and Mary, and he was the one who asked Bigger to leave the car out and bring Mary's trunk downstairs.

As Bigger planned Britten has found the communist pamphlets Jan gave him, and Britten asks Bigger about his own affiliations with the party. Bigger truthfully answers that he doesn't know about communism, and Mr. Dalton confirms that Mary talked to him about unions at the job interview. After they leave the basement, Bigger eavesdrops on Mr. Dalton and Britten in the kitchen. Britten makes some racist remarks about Bigger, and the two men decide to bring Jan to the house for questioning. Bigger is brought in to repeat his story with Jan present, and Jan does not understand why Bigger is lying. He later tries to confront Bigger about his story outside the house, but a panicked Bigger waves his gun at Jan and runs away to Bessie's to write the ransom note, which he signs with the name "Red" and a communist logo.

At Bessie's Bigger confesses that he killed Mary to get Bessie to go along with his plan. Bessie wants the two of them to take the money they have and run away, but Bigger returns to the Daltons' and slips the note under the front door before going to his room.


Another reason Bigger is convinced he can frame Jan is Jan's background as a communist. Ironically, the Daltons and the rest of white society hate communists enough that Bigger thinks he can deflect the hate aimed at him toward Jan and the communists. Bigger does not fully understand what communism is, but he knows that white people find it threatening, and he uses that to his advantage when Britten questions him. Bigger doesn't expect Britten to accuse him of being a communist, but he is able to deflect Britten's questions by playing to Britten's stereotype of black men being mentally inferior, which he reveals during his conversation with Mr. Dalton. Britten seems to have contempt toward any group that threatens the status quo of white society, and his questioning sessions with both Bigger and Jan reveal how the stereotypes and fears groups have about one another can create imagined threats that conceal the real ones.

After the questioning Jan confronts Bigger about his lies, and Bigger feels guilt for framing Jan, which is unusual for Bigger. But, as is his habit when experiencing emotional discomfort, Bigger reacts with violence, threatening Jan with his gun before running away. Bigger knows no other way to process his emotions other than showing his violent side. He is not emotionally equipped to handle the situation rationally through discussion, thus, he resorts to displaying his superiority by using the very thing that brings him a sense of security and power, his gun.

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