Hired by Mr. Dalton to investigate his daughter’s disappearance, Britten is prejudiced against both black people and Communists. Initially suspicious of Jan Erlone, he quickly believes that Jan and Bigger are in cahoots. Still, he suspects Jan of being the mastermind, especially once the ransom note arrives.
Though Britten claims that Bigger is all-right and favors the theory that the "Reds" are behind Mary’s kidnapping, he plays a crucial role as Bigger’s adversary. Bigger thinks he can fool Britten. Because Bigger sees Britten as blinded by his prejudice, Bigger’s sure that Britten will never believe that Bigger could murder a white woman and stick around in plain view.