Richard Wright’s “Black Boy” depicts the different observations of the South and the North. In the South, Wright faces pre-depression and racism. In the North, Wright faces the conflicts from the Communist party. At the end of Black Boy, Wright quotes “What had I got out of living in the city? What had I got out of living in the South?”(Wright 452)
Wright’s thought of the South was that the South was a socially unreconstructed region where blacks who asserted their basic human rights invited punishment or death. Black Boy forces the reader to imagine the Southern life from a Negro point of view. The perspective of the South is that the entire society is assembled to keep the Negro in his place. White society of the South restricts a black person’s freedom of movement, discourages his ambition, and banishes the black person to a place of inferiority. In Black Boy, an elevator boy named Shorty invites a white man to kick him for a quarter. Shorty is a symbol of nothingness because he does not have any pride in himself and towards his race. Wright would rather die that have himself kicked. Wright marvels at the willingness of southern Negroes who control themselves, their hopes and dreams. Black Boy states that the South is so dark that Wright wanders over the fact that the sun is still shining. 1)
Readers are felt free to make false charges on the South were forced to inspect the problems of race, oppression and class in the North. Due to segregation in the South, it was unthinkable for a black boy to become a writer. Wright learns that his people grope at the Southern life making them believe in a better world up North. Wright leaves the South so that he could engage himself with reality. Wright’s reflections on the South ended with a quote, “This was the culture from which I sprang, this was the terror from which I fled.”(Wright 303)
When Wright goes to Chicago, Wright did not go North with a sense of what he wanted to become. In the North, Wright faces the pressure of the Communist Party. In the Communist Party, the themes of black and white are less intense. The issue of black and white as a race continues but Wright notes, he now feels “a different sort of tens...
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...for the Walls bringing in firewood and the Walls consider their house a second home to Wright where he understands them more than his own family.
Wright wrote Black Boy knowing that the book should not be read as a historical truth which struggles to report those false facts, but read as a narrative truth. Wright does not mention that his mother was a successful schoolteacher and that many of his friends were college faculty members. Wright also leaves out his father’s family background, which could have explained what type of person Wright’s father was. 5)
The story that Richard Wright creates in Black Boy, whatever it is a historical record, is important both in telling the reader how the author remembers life in the South and in showing the reader what kind of person the author was to have written Wright’s story as he did.
1) Harold Bloom, Modern Critical Views: Richard Wright, New York, Chelsea House Publishers @1987
2) Richard Wright, Black Boy: A Recollection of Childhood And Youth, New York, Harper Perennial Publishers @1945
3) Hayley Mitchell, Readings on Black Boy, San Diego, Ca, David L. Bender @2000
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