Literature Study GuidesNative SonFlight Book 2 On The Run With Bessie Summary

Native Son | Study Guide

Richard Wright

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Native Son | Flight, Book 2 (On the Run with Bessie) | Summary



Bigger tells Bessie that the ransom plan is off. He explains how he killed Mary by accident and how he disposed of her body. Bessie cries because she knows Bigger will be accused of raping Mary. Knowing the police will look for Bigger at Bessie's, the two of them take Bessie's bedclothes and flee to an abandoned building. Bigger doesn't really want to take Bessie with him, but he knows she will talk if the police find her. The night is cold, and Bessie is miserable as they huddle for warmth in a makeshift bed on the floor. Bigger becomes aroused and forces Bessie to have sex as she pleads for him to stop. She falls asleep after, leaving Bigger awake to think about what to do next.

Bigger decides Bessie will create too many problems if he takes her with him, and he can't leave her behind to talk to the police. He finds a brick and smashes her head with it while she sleeps, beating her until he can no longer hear her breathing. He dumps her body down an air shaft. Only after her body is gone does Bigger realize the roll of money from Mary's purse, the money he needs for his escape, is still in Bessie's dress pocket. He decides to leave it there, not wanting to see Bessie's body again. As he did after killing Mary, this murder makes Bigger feel more powerful than guilty. Still, he is unable to sleep soundly or understand why he was driven to murder two young women.


Bessie's existence has been marked by hard work, sickness, and poverty, and the only escape she has had from this life has been drinking and her relationship with Bigger. Bessie represents the difficulties many African American women endured in this period. A lack of resources and opportunities dictated her miserable situation, and she was forced to make the most of what little she had through hard work. She goes with Bigger because she is afraid not to, caught between her fear of what the white folks and the police will do to her and her dependence on Bigger.

When Bigger explains what he has done, Bessie says he will be accused of raping Mary, echoing the assumption that moved Bigger to place the pillow over Mary's face in the dark room. White society's belief that black men will automatically be accused of raping white women is common knowledge in their world. Bigger's actual rape of Bessie, the woman who has slept with him willingly until now, makes her fear for his safety bitterly ironic.

It is Bigger's own fear that leads him to violate and then kill Bessie. He rapes her in an attempt to escape the fear and the chain of events that have sent him on the run. His life is out of control now, but he is able to exert physical control over her and find momentary escape in physical pleasure while he does so. He kills Bessie because he thinks she may further hamper his escape, but it is also a way of quelling his fear. After he killed Mary he felt powerful and invincible, and once it is done Bessie's death gives him a similar effect. His inability to sleep soundly, however, reveals that his crimes are affecting him more than he realizes.

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