Black Boy Essay
In Richard Wright’s autobiography of Black Boy, Richard is determined to leave his family to move to the north because they do not provide the necessities for him to be successful. Richard’s bold and stubborn personality negates him success. This runs parallel to the abuse and manipulation that Richard receives that limits his relationships with others around him. Wright also shows how reading frees a soul suffering from discrimination. The US constitution states that “All men are created equal,” but in the Jim Crow law era, blacks were always looked down upon. Jim Crow promoted segregation and dehumanization amongst blacks and whites, creating the “wall” that separates whites from blacks. Racial prejudice, hate and discrimination were everywhere; blacks could be punished in any manor, from being arrested and getting a beating, to being slain based on a white person’s judgment on the action perform by the black individual. Throughout the novel we can see Richard’s alienation from the white community as well as the black community.
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Richard grew up in the south bound by rules and regulations formed by the whites. Secluded within their own confines of living, their struggle to survive in such a harsh environment seemed infinite and hopeless. Richard had to take charge when his mother falls ill and must provide for her and the family; disregarding this own health and focusing on keeping up with the rent and bills that needed to be paid. Richard’s father deserted his family leaving him and his mother to be on their own. Nathan, Richard’s dad was a peasant, and a share cropper. He did what the whites commanded him to do, follow the rules with no desire to succeed or progress in life, and repeat each and every demeaning and menial task day by day just to get by. This is the kind of society which ‘trained’ Nathan to be what the whites forced him to be, a dull and dumb individual with no sense of perception of what’s actually going on around him. Being counted as a subspecies, Richard’s father was conditioned to have no sense of hope, his entire life was based upon one thing, and that is falling in line with all other blacks and follows through with all the commands given by the white with no questions asked. This worked on every level imaginable, using sheer force and fear to tear down any sense of hope or positive thinking which blacks had. Just the thought of blacks surpassing a white individual was unthinkable. Why is this? It’s because it was deemed that way, it was how the society worked at that time. No one could question or challenge what whites could or can’t do, all of their thoughts are final. The ideas of being superior amongst the blacks were socially acceptable. And this included dehumanizing and cruel treatments.
Richard wasn’t like the other kids that were in the black society. He was more free willed and ambitious. Richard was an independent individual from the start; not getting attached to anyone or in need of assistance of any sort. Richard was fond of education and learning. His quest for knowledge seemed, in the other black people’s eyes as a waste of time and energy, deemed to be helpful. But in some cases, Richard’s knowledge gets him in trouble, even worse getting hurt. An example from the book, is when Richard has to go to the store and buy groceries, but gets robbed numerous times by a gang of boys. The final time that Richard failed to get the groceries his mother told him, “Don’t come in here…You just stay right where you are, I’m going to teach your this night to stand up and fight for yourself…Don’t you come into this house until you’ve gotten those groceries.”(pg.24-25). One of Richard’s top qualities was taught that night by his mother was perseverance.
On the other hand we see the opposite, Shorty. Basically this amplifies my point of doing whatever possible to survive in this dreadful environment. He gets kicked in the gut just to get a quarter. “My ass is tough and quarters is scarce.”(end of ch12) At what point does a person go to violate self-ethics and morals, and go through with it just to survive. How far are you willing to go until you break? There is a delicate bond between the white people and white people, as humans we have limitations on how much we can handle mentally and physically. We can see from this example that Shorty is willing to degrade himself in order to get a quarter per kick. Shorty and Richard go off on a tangent about how to avoid being dehumanized and do something else. Richard offers to help him but Shorty’s hard headedness prevents him from to take heed the information given by Richard. But in Shorty’s remarks, he states that he is lazy to do anything and won’t change his ways of how he earns money. The readers recognize that Shorty has accepted the fact of being caught in the white power web of inferiority; he sees that there is no way out of this terrible situation.
He went to school for half of his learning, and the half he was self-taught; by reading little bits and pieces he manages to learn quite a bit. Having knowledge and education grants Richard to be ahead of all the other black people. Wanting to be a writer, Wright pursues his dreams of moving North and writing novels. He takes the challenge by getting any job he can to raise money for himself to move to the north once and for all, and freeing himself from the clutches of racial prejudice and white rule. His ability to persevere also guided Richard toward his prosperity. Richard was a fighter and no matter what obstacle he faced, he manages to knock it down and march forth with his duties.
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Richard was always rebellious, from when he was really young to young adulthood. For example, when the principal at Richard’s school had asked him to give a speech to the audience of whites and blacks, Richard refused to read the principal’s pre-written speech. Just by reading the principal’s speech he was relieved at the same overly stressed out. He had the will and courage that other black individuals lacked to commence forth with this own speech. Richard was willing to leave school without a diploma just because of this unjust action.
The whites knew that Richard was different; they knew that he challenged the “system” and he wasn’t afraid like the rest of the black people. The readers can sense fear coming from the whites, due to Richard’s attitude towards the whites and the boundaries that surround him. The white’s try to cover up their fear and pushing racism by being cruel and demeaning towards the entire black population. We can see in the scene where Richard gets a new job at the optical place, and his co-workers mistreat him just because the boss is kind to Richard. Later Richard leaves the job knowing that his co-workers would ‘kill’ him if told the boss what happed to him. The hostility portrayed by his co-workers was so great that Richard couldn’t handle it anymore, and was forced to leave his job.
All of these events mold Richard into the hardy character he is known for. Wright’s intellect was unmatched by the blacks, and well as his rebellious features and conduct. These were a few reasons that he was able to overcome his background of being black individual, and becoming a successful writer. Based on the fact that he was smart and independent, and his perseverance guided him to reach this status, to which all blacks should uphold to. By reading Black Boy it becomes very clear to the reader how life as a black minority is very difficult. We can recognize all the struggles they faced and how Richard challenged and managed to surpass what no blacks ever did.
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