Black Boy Essay, Research Paper
In Black Boy, by Richard Wright, Wright is able to recollect the struggles of
his life. Beginning at an early age, he was faced with the problems of hunger.
His hunger starts off as a hunger for food, but later becomes a hunger for
knowledge. This constant hunger puts him in a spot where he is dehumanized and
alienated. Wright reflects on his hunger, at an older age, which allows himself
to form his identity. He realizes that the hunger, dehumanization, and
alienation of his life are the things that make his identity.
Wright develops his mind at a young age, along with the progression of his
hunger. Wright is six years old when his father leaves the family. Not only does
he leave his children without a father figure, but also he leaves his wife and
children without a dime to buy food. "I would feel hunger nudging my ribs,
twisting my empty guts until they ached." Although Wright had known hunger
before his father had left, the hunger he knew was only momentarily. Wright
hungered, but his hunger would be satisfied with food. "But this new hunger
baffled me, scared me, made me angry and insistent." As his mind is
beginning to develop, he is given a preview of the racial inequalities of the
south at the turn of the century. "Watching the white people eat would make
my empty stomach churn and I would grow vaguely angry. Why could I not eat when
I was hungry? Why did I always have to wait until others were through? I could
not understand why some people had enough food and others did not."
Although his white neighbors were not purposely putting him down, they
indirectly taught him a difficult lesson that would be impossible to avoid. He
sees that white people have a family [with a father], food on the table. He sees
how whites – even if they do not mean to make Blacks feel lesser of themselves -
will hold superiority over them. This "preview" shows him a
complicated concept as simply as possible.
Wright let his resentment towards his father grow, which causes his hunger to
grow. Wright comes to the realization that he cannot allow his father to
dominate him. He liberates himself from the feelings he once had about his
father, and does not allow his father to consume his every thoughts and feelings
about hunger. "I did not want my father to feed me; I was hungry, but my
thoughts of food did not now center about him." Wright and his mother took
his father to court, but his father exclaimed that he would not give money to
Richard and his family because he did not have enough to support himself. When
his mother could no longer support or feed Richard and his brother she put them
in an orphanage. He escaped, but looked back at what he had done. He pondered to
himself, "No; hunger was back there, and fear." Hunger now reflected
the fear imposed on him at the orphanage.
Wright began going to school. His mind is being fed intellectually, but his
physical hunger remains. Strangers try to vanquish his hunger, but he does not
want charity from others.
"Granny" forces religion on him with a hope to reform him. Wright
goes through a reform; although, it is not a religious one. "? I knew
hunger ? that kept me on the edge, that made my temper flare, hunger that made
hate leap out of my heart like the darts of a serpent’s tongue, hunger that
created in me odd cravings." Wright no longer hungers for food. He
transitions his hunger of food and fear into that of knowledge. His grandmother
does not allow his; instead, places him in setting where people are
closed-minded. The church is compiled of people that limit his freedom. They,
too, have been brainwashed by their white superiors. The white community has
told the black community that they are good-for-nothings and should not dream of
becoming anything important in life. Richard’s church community and family
express to him the same message.
In his struggle to conquer hunger, Wright is dehumanized in the process.
Wright lives in an alien world devoid of love and understanding. He is a young
boy when he experiences the racism of whites towards blacks for the first time.
His age makes it more difficult for Wright to not only understand the things
going on in his life, but also to accept them. At the age of six Wright becomes
a drunkard. "The point of life became for me the times when I could beg for
drinks." Young white children would never be caught in a saloon, much less
drunk at a young age. Yet, white people would think this behavior typical of
blacks. They believed that all blacks were ignorant, and didn’t know any better.
White would find pleasure in hearing young black boys say obscure things and act
ridiculous. "For a penny or a nickel, I would repeat to anyone whatever was
whispered to me." He became entertainment for whites, and they encouraged
his alcoholism by giving him money to buy more drinks.
Richard has been dehumanized by whites all of his life, but when he is older
he is dehumanized in a way that is more personal and taunting. Richard began to
work for Mr. Crane – the owner of an optical company. He had co-workers, which
were white, that were quiet and peaceful. The peacefulness in the office was
diminished one day when Richard asked a man named Reynolds if he was going to
teach Richard the trade. "Whites regarded Negroes as animals in sex matters?"
A few days afterwards, Reynolds called Richards to his side and began asking him
questions, like, "Richard, how long is your thing?" In addition to the
mean previous question he said, "I hear that a nigger can stick his prick
in the ground and spin around it like a top, I’d like to see you do that, I’d
give you a dime, if you did it." Again, whites are offering to pay blacks
to not only humiliate themselves, but also entertain whites. Richard felt
"drenched" in shame and "naked" to his soul. He "felt
violated." Richard thought about things people had told him in the past,
which allowed him to realize that is was his "own fear that had helped to
Richard is alienated in a house with rigid rules. His granny and Aunt Addie
consider him a sinner, since he is more interested in worldly pleasures other
than God. His schoolmates and teachers had all been bought into following white
people rules of culture. Richard attends a local school, which happens to be
where his Aunt Addie teaches. Richard’s aunt had felt threaten by his presence
at the school. She thought that if she went "easy" on Richard that the
other students or parents would not take her seriously. One day she feels the
need to punish Richard, although he was not the one to blame for having crumbs
on the floor. At home she tries to beat Richard once again, for not letting her
beat him at school. She tries to beat him up, but Richard fights back and does
not allow him to be beaten without worthy cause. "Aunt Addie took her
defeat hard, holding me in a cold and silent disdain." She is the first of
the members in the household to alienate Richard. She does not talk to him,
because of her feelings of resentment. Richard has a similar incident with Uncle
Tom. His uncle walks into Richard’s room one early morning and asks him for the
time. Richard informs his uncle on the time he has. His uncle gets mad;
eventually, leading into physical fighting with Richard. His Uncle Tom considers
him a harmful companion and warns his daughter from talking to him. Richard,
eventually, has the entire household turn against him. His brother returns from
Detroit and looks down on him, Richard is regarded as a pest at home and
isolated from other family members. His only solace is his sick mother. Richard
finds little consolation in the outside world.
Richard Wright becomes a strong being, mentally. He is hungered for the rest
of his life. He overcomes adversity and racism. He finds his inner self away
from the people that alienate him and cause his hunger to grow. Although, he
does find it difficult to stifle his individuality and become a shadow of the
White majority. Richard establishes his identity in Memphis. Hunger is no longer
a burden he must deal with everyday. He has enough money to provide for food,
and he has been educated. He arrives to Memphis and finds a home, where not only
is he welcomed he is asked to wed the daughter of the landlady. Richard learns
to survive in a world dominated by Whites.