Language, Identity and Acceptance in Wright’s Autobiography, Black Boy


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Language, Identity and Acceptance in Wright’s Autobiography, Black Boy


African American writer James Baldwin said that,

“ Language is the most vivid and crucial key to identity: It reveals the private, and connects, or divorces one from the larger public or communal identity.” The stories in Black Boy are original and captivating. It identifies Richard Wright as a writer and a person of incredible substance. The language identifies the books time frame and era. And most importantly shows Richard’s journey through social and personal acceptance.

Writing this book the language used was important to Wright. It gave him the power to convey his life story to the reader. Without it his stories could have never been published and his popularity amongst readers would be nonexistent. This book is based on a factual claim. It might be biased because we read only his side of the story. It might also include a bit of fiction but his command of the words and the imagery speaks otherwise. Richard Wright infuses the book with personal stories from his experiences in life. We as the reader might find some of the stories in the book hard to believe but his use of evidence and historical facts lead the reader to deem that this book is in fact the life of Richard Wright. His use of words and his grasp of the English language allows the reader to identify with his victories and his defeats. Using the pathos appeal Wright enables the reader to be part of the story of his life. “ I would hurl words into the darkness for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger of life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human.

Language also identifies the books era. Reading the book one can tell that it was a time of hostility between races. The term “ white man” comes up many times. It is as if Wright is reluctant to use he names of particular people even when he does know them. “ White man” obtain a singular feeling from the reader. Even though most of the time there is usually more than one man he refers to them as the white man. The blacks on the other hand are “us” or “ours” .

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There is a feeling of unity in those words. He identifies with the problems of his race and is willing to help change the view of others.

His use of a fast paced writing shows his journey through social acceptance. From the beginning of the book Wright is fighting to be an individual, ye he is willing to do anything to be accepted. Even if those things are not exactly conscience approved from him. He lives in a medium paced world where his logical reasoning is rarely confident but his emotional appeals soar above the usual emotional level in books.

Identity and acceptance were important to Wright. He spends his whole life trying to find himself. His reward for his search is his ability to use words and language to bring readers everywhere some of the best poems and stories of all time. Which grants him acceptance amongst many. Language gave him the power to tell his story and it also cleared a path which led to social acceptance. It was a hard road to travel, but it proved to be educational. His writings prove that, and so did his life.


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