Richard Wright's 1953 novel is a semi-autobiographical novel on the accounts of racism that the author himself has witnessed for the black people of his time. The novel tells the story that centers on the life of Cross Damon who goes through many different emotions and strains in his life.
The first book introduces almost every character and gives reason for who they are and why they behave the way they do. Cross is an alcoholic; he drinks heavily to help him forget about his circumstances. One of which is his pregnant fifteen-year-old girlfriend Dot, who is threatening to press rape charges against him. Also, his wife Gladys knows of his situation with Dot. Therefore, she makes arrangements for Cross to obtain a loan from his Boss at the post office. Cross was to give her the money after receiving it. With the loan in his pocket, he hops onto a train.While he was on the train, an accident occurs which he walks away from. Later, Cross saw on the news that a dead victim on the train was identified as him. This was the perefect oppurtonity for Cross to start a new life, "he would do with himself what he would and like" (111). He takes advantage of this situation by planning to abandon all his troubles and responsibilities. Before leaving Chicago to start a new life, he stays at a cheap hotel, there he ran into Joe, a co-worker/friend whom he kills by throwing out a window because Joe had discovered Cross was alive.
In book two, scared of what he had done to Joe, Cross takes the train to New York City. "His killing Joe had been dictated by his fear of exposure, and he knew that what had happened with Joe could happen again under conditions whose advent he could not gainsay or choose" (152). At this point, Cross was a dangerous man on the loose, for he would go as far as killing to keep his identity from being exposed. Meanwhile, while on the train to New York he meets, and has a friendly conversation with Ely Houston, District Attorney. He also met a waiter on the train by the name of Bob Hunter, who later got fired as a waiter for spilling a drink on a guest. Cross makes his way to Harlem, where he finds a room for rent with a widowed woman, Ms. Hattie. Ms. Hattie was very vulnerable, and got into financial problems with two men who ripped her off for eight thousand dollars. Not wanting to get involved with her mess, Cross found another place with an older woman. In search of a new identity, he decides to go to a cemetery, and there he found the name Lionel Lane.
Next in book three, Cross meets up with Bob Hunter who introduces him to Gil Blount, a white Communist Party official who invites him to live with him and his wife Eva Blount in Greenwich Village, which is owned by a racist landlord, Herndon. While getting situated in his new room he came across Eva Blount's Diaries. While no one was home, he sneaks a peak into Eva's dairies. It was revealed that Eva's marriage to Gil Blount was all a deception planned by the Communist Party. "Here was a lost, brave woman who had enough sesitivity and intelligence to understand what he had to say. She was a victim like he; the difference was that he was a willing victim and she was an involuntary one..." (285). He wanted to be there for her but could not. Later in