Black Boy


Black Boy , an autobiography by Richard Wright, is an


account of a young African-American boy\'s thoughts and outlooks on life in


the South while growing up. The novel is 288 pages, and was published by


Harper and Row Publishers in 1996. The main subject, Richard Wright, who


was born in 1908, opens the book with a description of himself as a


Four-year-old in Natchez, Mississippi, and his family\'s later move to


Memphis. In addition it describes his early rebellion against parental


authority, and his unsupervised life on the streets while his mother is at


work. His family lives in poverty and faces constant hunger. As a result


his family lives with his strict grandmother, a fervently religious woman.


In spite of his frequent punishment and beatings, Wright remembers the


pleasures of rural life. Richard then describes his family\'s move to


Memphis in 1914. Though not always successful, Richard\'s rebellious


nature pervades the novel. This is best illustrated by his rebellion


against his father. He resents his father\'s the need for quiet during the


day, when his father, a night porter, sleeps. When Mr. Wright tells


Richard to kill a meowing kitten if that\'s the only way he can keep it


quiet, Richard has found a way to rebel without being punished. He takes


his father literally and hangs the kitten. But Richard\'s mother punishes


him by making him bury the kitten and by filling him with guilt. Another


theme is seen when his father deserts the family, and Richard faces severe


hunger. For the first time, Richard sees himself as different from others,


because he must assume some of the responsibilities of an adult. In


contrast to his above characteristics, Richard soon shows his ability in


learning, even before he starts school, which he begins at a later age


than other boys because his mother couldn\'t afford his school clothes.


Rebellion, hunger (for knowledge and food), and the sense of being


different will continue with Richard throughout this book. In the


following chapters the Wrights move to the home of Richard\'s Aunt Maggie.


But their pleasant life there ends when whites kill Maggie\'s husband.


Later the threat of violence by whites forces Maggie to flee again.


Additional unfortunate events include Richard\'s mother having a stroke. As


a result, Richard is sent to his Uncle Clark\'s, but he is unhappy there


and insists on returning to his mother\'s.


Later, Richard confronts his Aunt Addie, who teaches at the Seventh-Day Adventist church school. He also resists his grandmother\'s attempts to convert him to religious faith. He writes his first story and blossoms in a literary sense. Richard then gets a job selling newspapers but quits when he finds that the newspapers hold racist views. Soon after this incident, his grandfather dies. Richard publishes his first story. The reaction from his family is overwhelmingly negative, though they can do nothing to stop his interest in literature.



When he graduates, Richard becomes class valedictorian. But he refuses to give the speech written for him by the principal. Upon entering the harsh


world of actual adulthood, Richard has several terrifying confrontations


with whites. In the most important of these confrontations, he is forced


out of a job because he dares to ask to learn the skills of the trade.


These same harsh realities of life also force Richard to learn to steal.


By stealing he acquires enough money to leave the Deep South. Richard


finds a place to stay in Memphis. The owner of his rooming house


encourages him to marry her daughter, Bess. As a result of his inborn


fear of intimacy, he refuses. Richard then takes another job with an


optical company. The foreman tries to provoke a fight between him and a


black employee of another company. In the culmination of Richard\'s interest in literature, he borrows a library card and discovers the hard-hitting style of columnist H. L. Mencken and begins to read voraciously.


Finally, in the last chapter, Richard leaves for Chicago.


When Richard tells his boss that he is leaving, he says that his departure


is at his family\'s insistence. The white men at the factory are uneasy


about a black man who wants to go north. They seem to consider that desire


an implicit criticism of the South and thus of them. On the train north,


Richard reflects on his life. He wonders why he believes that life could


be lived more fully. His answer is that he acquired this belief from the


books he read, which were