Book One: Fear
Native Son takes place in the Chicago of the late 1930s, and it is a harsh winter in the "Black Belt" (a predominantly black ghetto of Chicago). The main character is a twenty-year-old named Bigger Thomas, who lives in an impoverished, one room apartment with his mother and his teenaged siblings, Vera and Buddy. Ma and Vera share one bed, Buddy and Bigger share the other, on an opposite end of the crowded living space. This morning, Ma and Vera wake up to find a foot-long rat pacing the apartment. Amid screams, Bigger and Buddy wake up. Armed with a heavy iron skillet, Bigger kills the ratat the cost of a five-inch gash in his pants. Vera begins sobbing after Bigger shoves the dead rat in her face, swinging the animal's body by its tail; after Vera passes out, Ma scolds Bigger and orders him to go outside and throw the animal away.
When Bigger re-enters, Ma continues her tirade, reminding him that he has a job interview that evening and if he has any "manhood" in him, he will take heed of the welfare relief agency's threats to discontinue the family's aid and living arrangements. After she is revived, Vera is worried that she will be late for her sewing class at the YWCA, but her thoughts turn to her mother's depression and she seeks to console her. Ma is worried that her son appears unconcerned about her welfare and at breakfast, she "prophecies" that Bigger will go to "the gallows" unless he discontinues associating with his gang. Bigger quickly eats his breakfast and unsuccessfully tries to prevent his temper from flaring. Clearly annoyed, he rushes out of the apartment, after collecting carfare for his 5:30PM interview with Mr. Dalton. Ma ends the conversation with a final warning that the family will surely starve to death if the relief agency discontinues their aid.
Escaping his wretched living space, Bigger finds little peace in his ghetto environs. A re-election advertisement for State Attorney Buckley reads "YOU CAN'T WIN" and this is a miserable reminder of Bigger's unfulfilled idea to rob Blum's deli. Bigger had casually mentioned the potential heist to his poolroom gang: Gus, GH and Jack. All of their previous crimes were on a smaller scale and in their own neighborhood. Vera leaves the apartment building and walks in the opposite direction of Bigger, towards the YWCA, but she decides to turn around and offer Bigger a final reminder that his next crime will send him to prison, rather than reform school. After Vera leaves, Gus arrives and he and Bigger lean against a wall to smoke cigarettes and watch an airplane sky-write an advertisement: USE SPEED GASOLINE. Bigger wishes that he could fly an airplane and after Gus sarcastically reminds Bigger of American racism, they are both depressed but they soon laugh at how naïve their "realizations" sound. Gus and Bigger decided to "play white": Bigger pretends to be the President of the United States, engaged in a telephone conversation with Gus, the president of US Steel. Their laughs are short-lived as they recite the conversations they have memorized from movies. Eventually, Gus tells Bigger that he "thinks too much" and they head to the poolroom to take their mind off of their depression. Bigger has no money for the pool game, so Gus picks up the tab.
The poolroom is owned and operated by Doc, an older black man who is both affable and stern. As they begin their game, Bigger asks Gus if he is interested in robbing Blum and in an effort to mask his own fears, Bigger belligerently accuses Gus of being afraid to rob a white man. Bigger's temper flares stronger after Jack and GH arrive at Doc's and he doesn't wait long before re-proposing the robbery. When Jack and GH hesitantly agree, Gus is the only noncommittal one and Bigger antagonizes Gus, even after he agrees to the job. Jack and GH have to forcibly prevent an altercation and Doc warns the boys to keep their noise level down.
Bigger is frightened by the stark violence of his thoughts; he has always had a temper, but on this particular dayno doubt agitated by the impending interview for his job as a chauffeurBigger is unable to feel at ease. The boys make plans to meet back at Doc's poolroom at 3PM and they assent to Bigger's demand that they bring guns. While they have not used guns in the past, this job is riskier, Bigger says, wishing that the crime had already been over and done with. Bigger leaves Doc's poolroom with Jack and after loitering in the streets, they decide to spend twenty cents on a movie. As Bigger is still ambivalent about his potential job as Mr. Dalton's chauffeur, he does not mind spending his carfare on a movie that might help him to relax for a few hours. Inside the theatre, Bigger and Jack masturbate while thinking about their girlfriends and when Jack asks Bigger about his interview, Bigger replies that he would rather go to jail than take the relief job. The two young men move to different seats in the theatre and while they are watching the newsreels, Bigger continues his conversation about the prospective job with Mr. Dalton only to find Mary Dalton (the daughter) featured in the newsreel. Mary Dalton, of 4605 Drexel Boulevard, has shamed her millionaire parents by cavorting with a young, well-known Communist. Mary Dalton is thin, blonde and attractive; she and her "Red boyfriend were enjoying a winter vacation in Florida until the Daltons summoned Mary home.
After seeing the newsreel, Bigger is more optimistic about the job interview, though he questions the Daltons' motives in hiring an employee through the relief agency. Mostly, Bigger is excited about being able to get close to the "rich and famous" who appear in newsreels; he would get information from the inside because he would be the one driving them around. Bigger thinks back to his mother's words that wealthier whites were fairer and less bigoted than poorer whites that always feel threatened by enterprising blacks. From this, Bigger concludes that the Daltons should be easier to get along with. Suddenly, going to rob Blum's does not seem like such a good idea, but at 2:40 PM, Jack nudges Bigger and they leave the movie theatre to get their guns. Bigger sneaks into his apartment and he is gone before his mother emerges from behind the curtain where she is doing the wash, singing hymns all the while.
When Bigger arrives at the pool hall, Jack and GH are there; after 3 PM, Bigger becomes exceedingly agitated and when Gus finally arrives, slightly late, Bigger kicks him to the floor (much to Doc's amusement). But when Doc tells Bigger to "take it easy," Bigger continues to assault Gus, punching his head and finally drawing a knife. After feeling humiliated and emasculated for most of the day, Bigger sees this as an opportunity to wield power over his frightened friends. He draws his knife, forces Gus to lick the blade and then traces a circle on Gus' chest to illustrate the power he holds over his friend's life and death. Doc has continued laughing even as Jack and GH are horrified. When Doc sees the knife, he more forcefully warns Bigger to behave himself and Gus soon flees the scene, but not before hurling a billiard ball at Bigger. The ball smacks into his wrist and after Jack and GH desert Bigger, effectively ending his membership in their "gang," Bigger ends the scene by slicing the green felt of Doc's pool table. Doc promises to shoot Bigger the next time he enters the establishment.
After taking a walk to cool off, Bigger heads to his apartment and after a brief deliberation, he decides to carry his knife and gun with him to the Dalton's home. Ma has prepared dinner but Bigger insists that he does not have time to eat, so she gives him a quarter to get some food. As Bigger begins his walk, his path cuts into the white residential neighborhood that is wedged in between the "Black Belt" and Drexel Boulevard. Bigger is increasingly afraid that he will be the victim of some sort of racist abuse, and when he finally reaches the front gate of the Dalton residence, Bigger does not know whether to knock or search the house for a rear entrance. He eventually knocks at the front gate and a white maid welcomes him inside. Bigger is to sit and wait for Mr. Dalton and while he is waiting, Mrs. Dalton approaches. She is pacing the house like a pale ghost and Bigger soon realizes that she is blind. Mr. Dalton arrives and greets Bigger. Mr. Dalton is sincere in his efforts to make Bigger's interview less stressful and more casual. He is the owner of Southside Real Estate Company and as Bigger's landlord, he charges the Thomas' $8 a week for their one room. Mr. Dalton notes that the relief agency mentioned Bigger's criminal record (most notably, tire theft) but added that Bigger was also described as a hard, dedicated worker. The Daltons are eager to help the downtrodden and so Bigger will be hired with a weekly salary of $25: he is to give $20 to his mother (keeping $5 for himself) and he will live in a room above the Dalton's kitchen.
When Mr. Dalton introduces Bigger to Mary, Mary immediately befriends him, asking if he is unionized. While Bigger does not fully understand Mary's political rhetoric, he is afraid that her argument (on his behalf) with Mr, Dalton may cost him his new job. But Bigger is not fired, much to his relief, and this evening he is to drive Mary to one of her evening lectures at the University. When Bigger reveals that he has not eaten, Peggy, the Irish maid, cooks his dinner of bacon and eggs. She tells Bigger that he also has the job of cleaning the furnace and she explains that Mrs. Dalton's philanthropy enabled the last colored servant to get an education. After eating, Bigger officially meets Mrs. Dalton and she asks him if he has any interest in furthering his education through night school courses; when Bigger replies that he has not yet made up his mind, she assures him that there is no hurry.
Bigger's first assignment is to drive Mary Dalton to her evening lecture but after a few minutes of driving, Mary asks Bigger to turn onto a side road because she has no intention of attending class. Instead, Mary intends to see her Communist boyfriend, Jan, and she trusts Bigger to keep her secret. When Bigger meets Jan, the Communist's conspicuous attempts to be fraternal, egalitarian and race-blind, only augment Bigger's unease in the company of whites. Jan insists on playing chauffeur and he drives to Lake Michigan, where the three young people look at the beautiful night sky. Jan tries to excite Bigger with news and propaganda of the inevitable revolution; Bigger is simply uninterested. Jan and Mary are looking for excitement and are eager to "see" the plight of poor blacks, insisting that Bigger drive them though the Black Belt. When they make a stop at Ernie's Kitchen Shack, Bigger is reluctant to go inside because his friends and acquaintances will see him with the outsiders. Despite Bigger's discomfort, Jan and Mary enjoy themselves, singing spirituals and getting drunk in Ernie's and in the car ride back into their neighborhood.
Towards the end of the night, Jan talks to Bigger and learns that the twenty-year-old is originally from Mississippi, where his father was killed in a riot. Bigger has only been in Chicago for five years and he left school after the eighth grade. Jan invites Bigger to join the Communist Party and leaves him with some propaganda to read. Mary is soon leaving for a brief trip to Detroit and Jan is reluctant to see her go; amidst their drunken goodbyes, Mary nearly passes out and Jan is promised a $3000 check to bail out jailed Party members. After Jan leaves, Mary sprawls in the front seat and Bigger is worried that he is going to be punished for her misbehavior. When they arrive at the Dalton residence, Mary is barely awake and Bigger has to carry her into the house, heeding Mary's feeble gestures to point out the direction of her room. As Bigger rests Mary on her bed, Mrs. Dalton walks into he room and Bigger freezes, covering Mary's face with a pillow so that she won't mumble too loudly and incite her mother to call Mr. Dalton. As Bigger pushes the pillow into Mary's face, he unwittingly suffocates her and it is only after Mrs. Dalton leaves the room that he discovers his crime and panics. Surely his fingerprints are all over the room, so he is sure to be caught. Bigger's mind races and he decides to stuff Mary into her Detroit-bound trunkwhich he is supposed to be taking to the train station the following morning (Sunday).
After carting the heavy laden trunk downstairs, Bigger decides to burn Mary's body in the furnace and in an unthinking frenzy, Bigger decapitates Mary, mutilating her body so that she will fit inside the furnace. Horrified by his own actions, Bigger takes the money out of Mary's purse and goes home to sleep, convinced that the police will never be able to prove that he did anything wrong.
Richard Wright's Native Son was published in 1940 and the novel is typical of the "Naturalist" genre of American prose fiction that dominated the era. With European antecedents like Zola, Dickens and Doyle, American Naturalists continued the detailed psychological portraits of charactersusually city-residents, where extreme poverty and overweening social structures provide the machinery for tragedy and fate. Indeed, Native Son is divided into three books: Fear-Flight-Fate, and the narrative makes no pretense that there will be a happy ending for Bigger, implying that there will be no happy ending for the ubiquitous "Biggers" that populate America's Black Belts. In a separate essay, "How Bigger Was Born," the novelist explains the character presented in Book One as a compilation of stereotypes and common tragedies, wryly named to be an obvious rhyme with a racial epithet. In Book One, Wright combines the social message of urban Naturalist prose with the tricks and mechanics of a detective story.
Evidence of Wright's Naturalist tendencies can be seen in his methods of characterization. Even though he provides extensive psychological details of the main characters, each of these individuals is simply a "type" (or archetype) for some broad section of American society. Bigger Thomas has a rather ubiquitous name, and all of his introspection relates to his experiences as a resident of South-Side apartments. Bigger is to be the archetypal young black urban male and there are no psychological details that are specific to Bigger alone. Accordingly, we assume that Buddy, Gus, GH and Jack, must have resembling psychological interiorsand so, none of their psychological introspection is relayed to the reader.
Ma has no need of a first name because she is exclusively defined by her matriarchal role, unlike Mrs. Dalton. Ma sings hymns and struggles to instill her own Protestant work ethic in her children and after we learn that Ma sings hymns and "prophecies" Bigger's path to the gallows, she becomes the archetype of African-American religion. Wrights considers Ma's religion to be an emotional escape, as passionate and potentially destructive Bigger's sin, and Ma becomes a symbol of ineffectual religious faith to be later juxtaposed with Bessie's alcoholism and Mrs. Dalton's impersonal philanthropy. Finally, Ma's symbolic religious faithlargely a faith based on symbolsfurthers the motif of emotional escape as a consequence and indictment of urban poverty and American racism.
Wright's white characters are afforded similarly cursory psychological portraits; they are not individuals but archetypal figures who only resonate on a symbolic, metaphorical level. Mary Dalton, the heiress of the millionaire Daltons, is as wryly named as her murderer, Bigger Thomas. "Mary" Dalton is an allusion to the Virgin Mary, and this allusion is reified in irony: far from virginal, Mary is a drunken truant. Despite the moral, religious connotations of her name, Mary is a communist sympathizer and a rather casual romantic whose exploits are uncovered and revealed in a seedy newsreel of all things. Wright's construction of Jan and Mary is deliberate, as they offer a younger parallel to Mr. and Mrs. Dalton, an older pair of well-meaning, patronizing and ultimately ineffectual do-gooders. Rather than offer psychological details of these characters, Wright relies upon impersonal details, political affiliations and cliches as the modes of characterization. Jan and Mary are defined by a youthful exuberance and revolutionary spirit that is revealed primarily by their affiliation with the Communist Party and their passion for labor unions. Mr. and Mrs. Dalton are upstanding citizens whose character-defining magnanimity is exhibited by their decades-long commitment to the NAACP.
More so than Mary, Jan becomes a symbol of the Communist Party's inability to successfully integrate their rank-and-file and policy objectives to include the interests of the common black masses. It is worth noting that, in 1940, Wright was a disenchanted Party member. Another point worth noting is that Wright subverts the Communist Party's traditional "symbols" in order to make Jan a symbol of the Party's failure. The "handshake" between blacks and whites illustrates the Party propaganda. Jan dutifully replicates this in his relations with Bigger, yet his handshake comes off as inherently patronizing and ultimately failing. Jan's well-intentioned, interracial handshake enforces the distance it seeks to breach. Later on in Native Son, Jan will partially emerge from his "flat," largely symbolic role as a character. On the other hand, Mr. and Mrs. Dalton will never evolve into "round" charactersneither as grieving parents who might evoke the readers' compassion, nor as dispassionate millionaires who might provoke the readers' anger. For his 1940 American audience, Wright intends for the Daltons to symbolize the inability of white liberals and philanthropists to cure a national disease (racism) by leisurely applying charity as a salve for the ugliest sores of the impoverished ghetto. For Wright, good intentions are not enough.
While Wright uses his characters to as political symbols, Book One's dominant display of symbols, similes and metaphors comes in his description of Bigger's living space and immediate neighborhood. While the people are abstracted into anonymous (often, stereotypical) representatives of their race and/or class, the details of the scenery are specific in their detail and more general in their implications. The novel opens with Bigger killing a fat black rat that has invaded their decrepit one-room apartment. Even as the rat is considered as an "invasion" to be killed, it is a symbol of the living conditions of urban black America and a foreshadowing metaphor for Bigger's psychological condition. The rat has hidden in the Thomas' apartment, growing fat on garbage before it is trapped and killed, largely for its physical repulsiveness. Symbolically, the rat is as "trapped" in the apartment as the family is; both are eating nutritionally deficient "garbage," none may escape and both are ultimately vulnerable to vicious murder. The relationship between the Thomas family and the rat is defined as "kill or be killed": Ma warns Bigger that if he lacks the "manhood" to kill the vicious rat, the rat will "cut their veins" while they sleep. This relationship, presented at the beginning of the novel, symbolizes Wright's perception of American race relations as evidenced in Bigger Thomas: Bigger must kill whites or be killed; whites must kill Bigger or be killed.
As a metaphor, the trapped and killed rat identifies Bigger's intense feelings of being trapped and hunted. Throughout the novel, Bigger alternates between the roles of predator (the rat that cuts veins) and the role of prey (the rat that is trapped and killed). Bigger's violence towards others resembles the rat's surmised violence; he threatens to cut his friend Gus, and just as the rat slashed a gash into his pants, Bigger slashes a gash in the felt of Doc's poolroom table. Bigger's ultimate act of violence, the defamation of Mary Dalton's dead body, is a struggle to cut the veins and bones of her neck, as she "sleeps," having been suffocated in her bed.
There are several contrasting metaphors, all of which evoke the images of "speed," travel and flight. In the morning, Bigger notices the "white birds" and then the "white pilot," "skywriting" an advertisement: "USE SPEED GASOLINE." Bigger considers his own poverty and struggles, ultimately considering the birds and flying pilot as a metaphornot of white freedom, but of his own entrapment. Indeed, when Bigger looks at the bird he admits to his friend Gus, that blacks were the only creatures in Chicago who are not free to go where they please. The metaphors of the caged rat and free bird may be a reverse of the more common caged bird and alley rat, but for Bigger, the implications remain the same: he is both trapped and doomed. Similar feelings are evoked in Bigger by automobiles; fast, sleek cars are sources of envy when they drive through his neighborhood. When Bigger is a chauffeur, driving a fast, sleek car, he only feels trapped.
The white world is "alien" and dangerous, and the black rat of the novel's opening scene foreshadows Bigger's inevitable invasion, offense, seizure and execution. The novel is heavy with foreshadowing; Ma "prophecies" the gallows and Bigger tells Gus that he fears some violence approaching. Besides the premonitions, Mary's appearance in the newsreel foreshadows her appearance in Bigger's life, and the advertisement for State Attorney Buckley foreshadows his own appearance towards the end of the novel. Bigger has carried a knife and gun long before he accidentally kills Mary, and this underscores the irony of Bigger's situation. Even when violence is obvious and fated, Bigger is not permitted to knowingly participate in his fate. Like any number of Greek or Shakespearean tragic cases, Bigger's accidents and passions mark the steps of his life and death. The structure of the novel foreshadows Bigger's crime of "fear," his "flight" and his "fate" in execution. In this regard, the foreshadowing produces a sense of dramatic irony in that, we are aware of Bigger's "fate" well before we see him go through the motions of his life. Similarly, the "cliffhanger" at the end of Book One is a false one; even if the death of Mary Dalton was unexpected; Bigger's self-assurance that he has covered his tracks is a specious one. Throughout the novel, Wright uses foreshadowing to build his argument that Bigger's "fate" has less to do with his individual actions and more to do with his circumstances. This provides some explication of the title Native Son and positions Wright well within the vein of "Naturalist" writing.
As the narrative structure suggests, both timing and sequence are crucial in Wright's writing and in setting up the inextricably linked chains of fate, Wright gives himself ample opportunities to reveal glaring ironies of American society. There are coincidences in the novel, like the fact that Mr. Dalton's paternalism reveals him to be Bigger's landlord and employer, but the irony comes in the fact that his (Communist-sympathizer of a) daughter glosses over this obviously Marxist setup and seeks to unionize Bigger. Coincidentally, Bigger and Gus "play white" and Jan and Mary "play black." It is ironic however, that Bigger and Gus were uncomfortably watching a white pilot fly over the black neighborhood, while Jan and Mary are chauffeured into the Black Belt, unwittingly making Bigger feel uncomfortable (again) as an accomplice in their invasion. While Gus and Bigger had to stay in their own neighborhood to improvise their game, Jan and Mary are able to "see the real thing," with Bigger as a tour guide.
There are other minor ironies in Book One. Ma's advice regarding the distinctions between rich and poor whites are exaggerated in the largesse of the Daltons and the deceit of Peggy, the Irish maid. She considers herself part of the upstanding, generous Dalton family but tricks Bigger into doing part of her work for her (unknowingly introducing him to the furnace where he will burn Mary's body.) Mrs. Dalton may be blind, but her hyper-sensitivity enables her to detect that something might be awry when Mary arrives home late; her presence however, provokes the pillowcase suffocation that her blindness prevents her from seeing.
Book one is entitled "FEAR" and the Fear is mostly Bigger's. Certainly, his fears of invaded white territory are matched with his fears of never having a free territory of his won. Another source of Bigger's fears come from the buffeting of his slightly inflated masculine ego and the concept of "Manhood" is one of four major themes that Wright presents in Book One. Bigger detaches himself from his family's miserynot because he does not care about them, but because he knows that he is impotent to support them, that there is simply nothing to hope for. When Ma upbraids Bigger and questions his "manhood," her words spark one of the day's refrains: in Doc's poolroom, in the theatre with Jack, in the Dalton's car and in Mary's bedroom, Bigger seeks opportunities to display and augment his masculinity, usually unsuccessfully. While the episodes in the theatre and Mary's bedroom were more sexually tinged, Bigger primary definition of "manhood" is one of violence. He relies upon his gun and knife as physical displays of his masculinity and even if most of Bigger's violence stems from the racist lynching of his father and his present socio-economic condition, Bigger is biased towards displays of strength and oppression. Bigger is happiest when he is dangling the bloody corpse of a newly killed rat or frightening his weaker friends to tears. Bigger is more than a bully, for despite his oppression (as a "colored" man in 1930s America) Bigger roots for tyrants and enjoys hearing stories of Japanese invasions and Hitler's murderous oppression of the Jews. Bigger hopes to reassert his deflated manhood by tyrannizing those around him.
Book One's second theme initiates a discussion of youth and innocence. Early on, we learn that Bigger is only twenty years old. One of Wright's efforts in Book One, is to juxtapose Bigger's favorite youthful activities (masturbating, playing "white," poolroom fighting) with the grim adult activity that he unwittingly and then, knowingly commits in the end of Book One and the beginning of Book Two (rape, lying to police, murder). As much as Bigger has hardened himself into an adult, his criminal efforts belie his youth in that they are educated by fantasy and not by reality. Bigger kills by accident and afterwards, he tries to make something out of what he has done. Bigger does not want to rob Blum's deli, but he perceives the heist as an adult thing to do. Even though the Daltons have offered him a nicer room, after burning Mary's body, Bigger flees home to his bed with his brother, mother and sister surrounding. When Bigger wakes up in Book Two, he will be an adult and his "FLIGHT" is an effort to escape the Chicago police and also an attempt to undo the adulthood that has been foisted upon him. Neither of these endeavors succeeds, of course, but Bigger is able to mature once he honestly assesses the "adulthood" that has been forced upon him. Again, the title Native Son resonates in the loss of innocence that the "native son" suffers.
Blindness is a third theme in Book One, and Wright's initial treatment of "blindness" is partially allusive to the ancient Greek dramas (most notably, Sophocles' plays) that use physically and spiritually blind characters to foreshadow tragedy and fuel tragic fate. Certainly, Mrs. Dalton fits within this rubric, as the only physically blind character in the novel. It is her blind presence that causes her daughter's death and provides much of the suspense of Book One's conclusion. Mrs. Dalton's physical blindness is, of course, the physical manifestation of a "blindness that she shares with her husband, her daughter Mary, Jan and much of Wright's America. Wright makes deliberate efforts to suggest that America is self-blinding, seeking to address the symptoms of racism while remaining deliberately incognizant of reality. Jan's reverie at the lake, when he promises Bigger an ensuing revolution reflects a "lake view" blindness that is as glaring as Mary's insistence that Bigger join a labor union. And just as Bigger murmurs that his self-deluded family is blind to his realitythat a job at the Daltons' is not going to improve their economic conditionhe too, blinds himself with intense anger and rash acts of violence. All of Wright's characters blind themselves, one way or another, so that they do not have to look at life's realities; and as a Naturalist, this blindness is just another one of the details that Wright uncovers.
Finally, the theme of "territory" is initiated in Book One and this will emerge as the most important theme of Book Two. In regards to the title of the novel, Wright is a little sarcastic in depicting Bigger as America's "native son." While Wright wants to make the argument that Bigger is a creation that can only be created in American territory, he also argues that part of Bigger's "native son-hood" is being treated as a non-native creature. As a result, the "Black Belt" ghetto of Chicago is what Bigger considers to be his "territory." All other areas of the planetexcluding Harlem, but including Lake Michigan, the ditches of the US Army and the entire skyare part of what Bigger considers to be "alien, white world." Bigger tries to maintain the idea that the white world is "alien" and that there is a fixed barrier between his space and the white space, but this construction proves faulty. Bigger is afraid to rob Blum because his deli is in a white neighborhood but afraid or not, Bigger must trek into a white neighborhood to collect his menial chauffeur job. If this does not prove the permeability of the "color line," the idea of fixed territories is surely destroyed when Bigger drives Jan and Mary into the Black Belt so that they can "play black" at Ernie's Kitchen Shack. In effect, Bigger is forced into a realization that the "territory" that he considers his own, is not. The region to which black living space is confined is merely a "belt" within the city and in a most literal sense Bigger's family continually faces eviction by the South Side Realty Company owned by their landlord, Mr. Dalton. The relationship between America and her "native son" is little different from the medieval scheme that attached a feudal landlord to a throng of serfs. Trapped at home, in the streets and oddly enough, even while he is driving, Bigger has no "native" territory and Wright's effective thematic treatment of this question, rightly reduces Bigger's thoughts of "flight" to the realm of impossibility. Before it is written and read, Book Two: FLIGHT is a doomed, ill-fated fantasy.