Richard Wright 's Black Boy Essay

Richard Wright 's Black Boy Essay

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Throughout Black Boy, Wright explores what it means to be an African American individual living in the Southern and Northern United States during the early 20th century. Because of his inherent strength and his stubborn unwillingness to conform to the expectations of the many, he struggles to find his place within his society. However, Wright’s struggles are not limited to those against the Whites while living in the South. An uneasy feeling of conflict pervades the book, and it becomes evident that his conflicts arise not only from his society’s rejection of his skin color, but from his community’s rejection of his character. In his autobiography, Wright defines himself as a fighter in an unending battle for acceptance—not just as a disenfranchised black man facing overt racism in every aspect of his life, but more as a black boy seeking to grow in a family whose misguided actions serve to suppress his every instinct and curiosity.
In describing his fierce, albeit short-lived interaction with Uncle Tom, Wright demonstrates that his deepest struggles are not against racism, but against members of his own family. Having recognized Wright’s academic potential, Uncle Tom, a former schoolteacher, desires to be a guiding force in Wright’s life. Indeed, with the intention of being a father figure that he believes Wright desperately needs, he seeks to teach Wright “a lesson in how to live with people” – both as a black boy living in the South and as a son whose mother’s illness demands that he becomes a man (Wright 159) . Wright makes it clear, however, that the misguided Uncle Tom is incapable of instilling any values that he deems worthy. Instead, he characterizes Uncle Tom as being competent of teaching him only one thing—inexplicabl...


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...tity as a fighter develops in his struggle to teach himself how to be true to himself in his environment. Throughout Black Boy, Wright describes himself as having denied the assertion that all of his actions were sinful and having rejected those who chose to silence his opinions. Even in the North, he recognizes that while racism begins with White Americans, it propagates in daily life by the self-confinement of people closest to him. Ultimately, his struggle to change what society deems is acceptable for him fails. In spite of this, he refuses to surrender to misguided authority, fueled by his assertion that “it [is] inconceivable… that one should surrender to what [seems] wrong” (164). Wright asks us, “Ought one surrender to authority even if one [believes] that that authority was wrong?” (164). To Wright, the answer is no—even in defeat, and he remains a fighter.

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