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Bigger's family lives in fear all the time; fear of poverty, fear of the 'white' man, and the fear of simply being afraid. The novel's opening scene begins with the rat. It's just a rat of course, but it introduces us to the feeling of fear we encounter throughout. (1.39-1.66 )
We also experience Bigger's fear of committing theft. He stands firm against it, just firm enough to make himself believe that the others won't see it; he doesn't want to rob Mr. Blum's store, but he wants to expose Gus' fear more than he's afraid himself. In the end, he resorts to bullying, and he expresses his own fear through bullying the other. Unfortunately it doesn't work and he is filled with anger. (1.380-385)
"He listened awhile to her rubbing clothes on the metal washboard, then he gazed abstractedly into the street, thinking of how he had felt when he fought Gus in Doc’s poolroom. He was relieved and glad that in an hour he was going to see about that job at the Dalton place. He was disgusted with the gang; he knew that what had happened today put an end to his being with them in any more jobs. Like a man staring regretfully but hopelessly at the stump of a cut-off arm or leg, he knew that the fear of robbing a white man had had hold of him when he started that fight with Gus; but he knew it in a way that kept it from coming to his mind in the form of a hard and sharp idea. His confused emotions had made him feel instinctively that it would be better to fight Gus and spoil the plan of the robbery than to confront a white man with a gun. But he kept this knowledge of his fear thrust firmly down in him; his courage to live depended upon how successfully his fear was hidden from his consciousness. He had fought Gus because Gus was late; that was the reason his emotions accepted and he did not try to justify himself in his own eyes, or in the eyes of the gang. He did not think enough of them to feel that he had to; he did not consider himself as being responsible to them for what he did, even though they had been involved as deeply as he in the planned robbery. He felt that same way toward everyone. As long as he could remember, he had never been responsible to anyone. The moment a situation became so that it exacted something of him, he rebelled. That was they way he lived; he passed his days trying to defeat or gratify powerful impulses in a world he feared." (1.632)
This quote unveils Bigger to the reader, as we can see his day to day life is filled with things he's frightened of. Bigger's response is to spend most of his time pretending he's not afraid, and being angry that he needs to pretend and cannot conquer those things.