|Poverty and Literature 2017
Guide: Book Two: “Flight”
- Flight from what?
- A Marxist would argue that Bigger's actions are all predictable. Why?
- An Existentialist would argue that Bigger deliberately pursues a perverse birth
into consciousness. How?
Consciousness (pp. 109-131)
- What is Bigger's first reaction when he remembers what happened the night before?
- Describe Bigger’s reaction
to finding Jan's pamphlets in his coat pocket.
- As he quickly gets a grip on his situation, Bigger notices that the knot in his gut has eased.
Why does he feel whole for
the first time in his life?
- How does he see his family
in a new way?
- What stereotype does Bigger
now incarnate? Why does Bigger find this
- When he encounters his friends at the newstand, how does he feel? Why?
- Riding the trolley to the Dalton's house, what new political ideas does Bigger conceive as he
observes the black folk on the sidewalks?
Improvisation (pp. 116-129)
- Compare the Bigger who had
fearfully approached the Dalton door just the day before
with this new
man. How is he different?
- How does Bigger manipulate
white preconceptions about him to his advantage?
- Describe Bigger’s
relationship with Bessie. Are they in love?
- Where does Bigger get the idea to extort ransom money from the Daltons?
- How does Bigger put his
newfound self-confidence to use with Bessie?
How will he control her?
- Why does Bessie go along with his plan?
Interrogation (pp. 149-172)
- What is Bigger’s best
defense in his interrogation by Britten?
- After managing Britten during the first stage of the interrogation, Bigger goes to his room,
falls asleep, and dreams a terrible dream? From what part of Bigger’s psyche
does the dream emanate?
What is he trying to tell himself?
- How does Bigger adroitly shift suspicion to Jan?
- What happens when Jan
confronts Bigger in the driveway?
- How is Bigger’s plan already
Plan (pp. 172-184)
- What does Bigger think about
when he sees Mr. Dalton’s “South Side Real Estate” sign?
- What will the police do with
the ridiculous ransom note that Bigger composes?
- Look at Bessie’s
speech after Bigger has told her the truth:
- Can you convert this speech
into a blues song?
- Is Bessie right when she
says, “I was lost when I took up with you”?
- In this section of the
novel, Wright alludes to Poe’s terrifying story “The Black Cat”. In that
the narrator’s lame efforts to avoid discovery of his crime are
subverted by his desire to get caught.
His true purpose throughout is
to reveal the full extent of his perverse rebellion against natural
- How does Bigger’s plan
unravel? What mistakes does he make? What unforeseen contingencies
he overlooked? Did he really believe he could get away with the ransom
- With the arrival of the
newspapermen, events whirl beyond Bigger’s control. What is his
when the truth finally emerges?
- Does Bigger have to kill
- Why does Bessie insist on
going with him?
- Does Bigger’s calm
rationalization of his decision convince you?
- Note the way that Wright
composes the setting for this terrible crime.
How might it suggest the
true forces driving Bigger and Bessie’s actions?
- Camus suggests that the
only true philosophical question is whether to accept or reject life.
Is Bigger’s choice legitimate? Or do you believe he had any choice?
Manhunt (pp. 241-270)
- What is the terrible irony
of Bigger’s response to the newspaper accounts of his alleged sex
- Describe the white
reaction to news of a white girl’s murder at the hands of a black man.
Do you think Wright is exaggerating to make a political point?
- Why does Wright use this
section of the narrative to expose the injustices of urban segregation
and the indignity of ghetto life?
- How does the black middle
class respond to the spectacle of the manhunt for Bigger Thomas?
- Locate the rhetorical
climax of Wright’s depiction of the mob closing in on Bigger.
symbolic values are suggested by these final moments?