- This article pertains to the character as he appears in print. You may be looking for his small-screen counterpart.
James P. "Big Jim" Rennie is the power-hungry main antagonist of Under the Dome.
Under the Dome
Rennie is the Second Selectman of Chester's Mill, Maine, the owner of Jim Rennie's Used Cars and half-owner of WCIK, and the father of Junior Rennie. Rennie "had given his heart to Jesus at age sixteen." He is the architect of a vast methamphetamine laboratory and distribution business operating out of a building behind Christ the Holy Redeemer Church.
On Dome Day, Rennie arrived at the crash site on Route 119, and appointed Peter Randolph as Sheriff of Chester's Mill after the death of Howard Perkins. That night, he later held an emergency meeting of the town Selectmen Andy Sanders and Andrea Grinnell with Randolph in attendance, advising that a townwide ban on alcohol be issued, and that the police department's depleted roster be filled out with Carter Thibodeau, Melvin Searles, Frank DeLesseps, and his own son.
On 22 October 2017, Rennie received news that Dale Barbara had been promoted to Colonel and named as military liaison to the town by special order of the President of the United States. Shortly after midnight the following morning, he met with Reverend Lester Coggins, who threatened to confess his part in the meth operation to his congregation; Rennie beat Coggins to death to maintain the secret, and afterwards had Junior hide the body.
Wishing to maintain his hold on power within the Dome, Rennie not only staged a riot at a supermarket so that he could enforce his authority, but also framed Barbara for the murder of Coggins, two girls who had been killed by Junior, and Brenda Perkins, having killed Brenda himself when she attempted to blackmail him to stand down using her husband's records of his meth business. When Barbara's allies help him escape (not before killing Junior) as Rennie becomes increasingly convinced that the Dome is God's will to allow him to become what he was meant to be, Rennie attempted to take back control of the meth operation from Phil 'Chef' Bushey, the man who cooked the meth, who was preventing him from covering it up from future investigations, but Bushey's greater firepower resulted in the destruction of his propane tanks, poisoning the atmosphere of the Dome.
Although Rennie and Thibodeau were able to retreat to an underground bunker before the atmosphere became too toxic, Rennie's own paranoia and the lack of oxygen in the area resulted in them turning on each other. Rennie won when he disemboweled Thibodeau, but later hallucinations drove him to leave the bunker for the toxic atmosphere outside, causing him to asphyxiate to death.
Throughout the novel, Rennie is defined by his arrogance and sense of his own self-worth. While content to remain in Chester's Mill, this is mainly based around his preference to be a big fish in a small pond rather than any genuine attachment to the Dome, recognizing that he would only be a man with money anywhere else in the world. He is charismatic enough to maintain control over the right people, but those intelligent enough recognize that he fundamentally a small, petty man, seeking mainly to reinforce his authority while disguising his lust for power by claiming that his actions are what is best for Chester's Mill.
Big Jim has completely convinced himself that he is doing God's work. He justifies his progressively more savage actions without fail, and never once even considers that he is sinning (not even after murdering Reverend Coggins). This is evident in that, even after having committed multiple murders, he still does not allow himself or anyone around him to swear, instead using phrases like "cotton picker" and "rhymes with witch" in place of profanities. He believes the murders and otherwise immoral actions he commits are all according to God's will, even when it is clearly obvious to an outsider that his true motivation is self preservation/aggrandization. He assures Brenda Perkins when she confronts him about his meth business that he did it to keep meth out of Chester's Mill, and that some of the money went towards "helping" the town. He absolutely refuses to relinquish power in any way due to his increasingly stronger delusion of believing himself to be an agent of God.
Although Rennie is not particularly smart, he is quite clever. Although the entire town knows that he is the real man in charge, he remains the second selectman so that he can weild power though his proxy, first selectman Andy Sanders, and avoid taking any blame if his decisions go awry. This cleverness is what helped him avoid being personally accountable in Duke Perkins' investigations of the meth business - Lester Coggins and Andy Sanders are set up be his scapegoats should the need arise. However, Big Jim's ego got the better of him when it came to his meth business. He allowed it to grow large - too large, in fact - requiring different plans and strategies in order to distribute the drugs and launder the money. This is where Duke had connected Rennie's name to the business, and when Brenda confronted him about it, he was genuinely surprised.