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From the opening of Book Two through Bigger leaving Mary’s money with Bessie


Bigger wakes up earlier than the rest of his family, and he is in a panic. He realizes he must get rid of Mary’s purse as well as his own knife, which still has blood on the blade. Bigger finds the communist pamphlets Jan gave him and plans to use them as evidence against Jan if the police come around asking questions. When his mother wakes and asks why he did not get home until four o’clock in the morning, Bigger insists that he returned at two, because that time fits better with the story he has constructed. Bigger stares silently around him, infuriated and bewildered that his family has to live in such griminess. Vera accuses Bigger of staring at her and begins to sob as he tries to keep his composure.

Bigger contemplates his crime and becomes filled with a sense of invincibility. In murdering Mary, he feels he has created a new life for himself. He convinces himself that Mary’s death is not accidental, but is actually something to which his whole life has been leading. Bigger feels a kind of pride in thinking that one day he will publicly accept what he has done. He decides that Jan, Mary, and the Daltons are blind, and, staring at his family, he realizes that they too are blind. Buddy longs to have a job like Bigger’s, and Vera already shows the beginnings of the same weariness that marks his mother’s face, exhibiting a profound fear of life in her every gesture.

As Bigger bounds down the stairs, Buddy calls after him, handing him a large wad of bills that has fallen out of Bigger’s pocket. Bigger tells Buddy not to tell anyone about the money. Bigger then showily purchases cigarettes for Jack, G. H., and Gus before getting on a streetcar to go to the Daltons’ home. Bigger begins to see that the white people around him are all blind. They see him as one who might steal, get drunk, or even rape, but they would never guess that he could be capable of murdering a white girl. Bigger marvels that he can act just as others expect him to, yet still do what he wants.

Bigger thinks of Mary and begins to believe that her murder is justified by the shame and fear that whites have caused him. White people, he thinks, are not really people, but a “great natural force.” He wishes he could have a sense of solidarity with other black people to battle against this white force, but he knows such solidarity would only be achieved if blacks were forced into it out of desperation. Bigger thinks of Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy, and wishes for some black leader to come along and whip black people into a group that would act together to “end fear and shame.”

Bigger arrives at the Daltons’ and finds Peggy peering into the furnace. For a moment he fears he may have to kill her, as the furnace is where he hid the body, but she sees nothing suspicious. Bigger adds coal to the furnace and leaves the unread communist pamphlets that Jan gave him in his room. Peggy sees that the car has been left outside all night, and Bigger tells her that Mary instructed him to leave it in the driveway. Peggy is skeptical, but Bigger mentions that a “gentleman” came to the Daltons’ house the night before, and Peggy does not question him further. Bigger feigns surprise when Mary does not come down from her room, and Peggy suggests that perhaps Mary has already gone to the train station. Bigger delivers Mary’s trunk to the station at 8:30. When Bigger returns, Jan calls looking for Mary.

Bigger is eager to watch the drama unfold. He eavesdrops on Peggy and Mrs. Dalton’s worried conversation. Peggy mentions that Jan called to speak to Mary, and believes that Mary might have asked Jan to make the call in an attempt to cover something up. Mrs. Dalton becomes worried when Peggy says that it looks like Mary did not pack all her things. Bigger realizes that he did not think of this detail, and for the first time he feels nervous. Mrs. Dalton questions him, and he repeats his story, adding that Jan accompanied him to Mary’s room. Mrs. Dalton gives Bigger the rest of the day off.