Richard Wright?S Black Boy Essay, Research Paper
More than Just Physical Hunger
Hunger is a physical aspect of life. Generally, when you think of hunger you think of food. Hunger is a different thing in Richard Wright’s Black Boy. In this autobiography, Richard tells of his life from a young boy in the prejudice south to an adult in the north.. In Black Boy, Richard’s expression of hunger goes beyond the physical sense. Hunger overflows into the mental sense, and gives Wright a hunger for knowledge, independence, and understanding.
Knowledge is something that most, if not all, people crave. Richard was one of them. His first hunger for knowledge was when he moved in with his grandmother. With his grandmother lived a schoolteacher called Ella. One morning he came upon Ella reading a book and he begged to her, “ ‘Ella,’ I begged, ‘please tell me what you are reading.’… ‘Your grandmother wouldn’t like it if I talked to you about novels,’ she told me.”(38). He then starts to seeking around to read Ella’s novels, knowing that his grandmother disapproved. He shows courage and defiance for the sake of knowledge. When Richard starts school Granny refuses to pay for his textbooks, thinking that they were “worldly”. Richard also went around his grandmother’s word, and got a job selling newspapers. “ “Now, at last, I could have my reading in the home, could hove it there with the approval of Granny. She had already given me permission to sell papers.” (128). He tried to sell the newspapers, but found out that they were of Ku Klux Klan origin and stopped. Although he didn’t make enough money, he still had the nerve to ask his Granny to let him.
Independence was won in American a long time ago. Still, Richard hungers for a different independence. Independence from authority was one of them. An example of this was with his Uncle Tom. “Now, Uncle Tom, what do you want with me?’ I asked him. “You need
to be taught a lesson in how to live with people,’ he said. “If I do need one, your not going to give it to me,’ I said.”(159). Even though Uncle Tom is his elder, Richard refuses to put up with him. Another example of this independence from authority was with his Aunt Addie. Like with his uncle, he refuses to be beaten, or disciplined in any way. “The moment Aunt Addie came into the house—I reached home before she did—she called me into the kitchen. When I entered, I saw she was holding another switch. My muscles tightened. ‘You’re not going to beat me again!’ I told her.”(107). Again he stands by his beliefs and refuses authority for the sake of being independent.
Understanding was another thing that Richard hungered for. The first time he hungered for understanding was in the very early stages of his life. “… a “black” boy had been severely beaten by a “white’ man, I felt that the “white” man had had a right to beat the “black boy, for I naively assumed that the “white” man must have been the “black” boy’s father.”(23). Richard didn’t fully understand all the racial issues in the south when he was a boy, and didn’t start to comprehend them until later in life.
Many things in Richard Wright’s Black Boy, such as knowledge, independence and understanding, represented hunger. A great amount of people hunger for different and new things, and much like Richard their hunger was always changing. “But to feel that there were feelings that denied me, that the very breath of life itself was beyond my reach, that more than anything else was hurt, wounded me. I had a new hunger.”(250)