Richard Wright’s Hunger: Analysis of Black Boy

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Desires of all types plague the human mind constantly. Certain desires are obvious and necessary, such as food and water. Others are more unique to humanity, such as education, respect, and love. When something or someone seems to stand in the way of an important yearning, desire becomes hunger. Over the course of world history, minorities have been repeatedly denied some of their most basic desires. An example would be the treatment of African-Americans in the United States until the later twentieth century. In Black Boy, Richard Wright characterizes his own multi-faceted hunger that drove his life in rebellion throughout the novel.

Richard’s hunger first manifested itself in the physical sense, a condition that would dominate and challenge his young life. Hunger motivated the majority of his important decisions, so as an author he choose to include many of these instances and often explicitly included the word as well. When Richard was six, his father abandoned the family, taking with him any security that they had. “Hunger stole upon me so slowly that at first I was not aware of what hunger really meant” (Wright 14). His hunger quickly became a focal point of his life, as a critic remarked, “Confronting hunger becomes all encompassing because it is physical as well as emotional… he strives to understand why he must starve while others are fed…. These events… influence Richard’s development and firmly establish the questioning tone of the text” (Camp). Camp suggests that Wright’s early use of hunger is meant to color a reader’s viewpoint from the beginning to the end. Richard began to go hungry at an impressionable age, but he turned a negative situation into a strong positive motivator. Hunger due to poverty ac...

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...multiple ways, leading Wright’s characterization of his own hungers to define the experience of all readers of Black Boy.

Works Cited

Camp, Carolyn. "The rhetoric of catalogues in Richard Wright's 'Black Boy.'." MELUS 17.4 (1991): 29+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Feb. 2010.

Dykema-VanderArk, Anthony. "Critical Essay on 'Black Boy'." Nonfiction Classics for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Nonfiction Works. Ed. David M. Galens, Jennifer Smith, and Elizabeth Thomason. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Feb. 2010.

Mahony, Mary. "Critical Essay on 'Black Boy'." Nonfiction Classics for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Nonfiction Works. Ed. David M. Galens, Jennifer Smith, and Elizabeth Thomason. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Feb. 2010.
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