The novel by Richard Wright explores the happenings that shaped the life of a young man of color living in Chicago called Bigger Thomas. Bigger’s primary concern is how to help his family survive. However, the jobs he gets only gives him meager earnings.
As the story begins, Bigger is employed as a chauffeur for a wealthy family of the whites called the Daltons. The first task he is to perform is to take Mary, Dalton’s daughter to college in the evening. Things do not go as planned. Mary instructs bigger to take her to Jan Erlone, her boyfriend, instead. The boyfriend is a communist.
As the three travel around, they talk about general issues. Mary gets drunk. To ensure Mary is safe, Bigger carries her to the bedroom. Coincidentally Mary’s blind mother comes to confirm if she is already in bed. The woman’s presence makes Bigger uncomfortable given the strained relationship that existed between blacks and whites. He knew he would be accused of raping Mary. Bigger covers Mary’s face with a pillow in a bid to make her quiet. Unfortunately, he kills her in the process.
Bigger had to find ways to hide the murder. Therefore, he cuts Mary’s body into small pieces and burns it inside the family furnace. Death makes Bigger feel fulfilled instead of being scared. He stays for a while, talks to Bessie, his girlfriend and proceeds to write a ransom letter to the Dalton family. Investigators do a search using the note and locate Mary’s burnt body in the furnace.
Because Bigger does not want to be caught, he escapes together with his girlfriend. Bessie does not want to be part of this complicated situation. The police begin a search for Bigger now that it is known he is the one responsible for the crime. Bigger makes things worse by raping and killing Bessie as he considered her a liability in his bid to escape.
Bigger does not run for long. He is soon captured by the police and detained as he awaits the conclusion of the investigation and the trial. Bigger’s family is devastated by what he did, even though they still visit him. Though the lawyer tried everything possible to get a lighter sentence for him, Bigger is sentenced to death by electrocution. At the end of the story, Bigger is in the cell waiting for the moment he is to die.