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.