Black Boy - Richard Wright's Portrayal of Himself
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 ...view middle of the document...
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
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
In the culmination of Richard's interest in...