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Black Boy

Black Boy 3. Black Boy, Richard Wright Black Boy, is both an indictment of American racism and a narrative of the artist’s development. As a child growing up in the Jim Crow South, Richard faced constant pressure to submit to white authority. However, even from an early age, Richard had a fierce spirit of rebellion. Had he lacked the resilience to be different despite the pressure to conform to social expectations, he would probably never have become an internationally renowned writer. The entire system of institutional racism was designed to prevent the American black’s development of aspirations beyond menial labor. Racist whites were extremely hostile to black literacy and even more so to black Americans who wanted to make writing a career.

However, Richard did not only face opposition to his dreams from racist whites. In many ways, his own family and the black community fiercely opposed his aspirations. His grandmother, a strict, illiterate Seventh Day Adventist, considered reading and writing about anything other than God sinful. Richard’s peers considered him silly and unrealistic and maybe dangerous. Throughout his childhood, Richard suffered violence at the hands of his family for daring to rebel against his assigned role of humble silence. In Black Boy, he often charges the black community with perpetuating the agenda of white racism. Throughout his childhood and adulthood, Richard reacted with bitter contempt toward what he saw as the submission of other black people to white authority.

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Wright has often been criticized for failing to acknowledge or appreciate the richness of the American black community. However, his personal experiences clearly affected his relationship with it. Just as he suffered abuse and hostility from his own family, so did he receive little comfort from the larger black community. Wright constantly clashed with what he saw as Black American submission, and, for personal reasons, clashed with all religious dogmatism. The black community reacted to his rebellion in kind, and Richard suffered intense isolation and loneliness during the formative years of his life.

He did not understand until later that his family and the black community discouraged his rebellion because pragmatic submission to the expectations of racist whites was a means to ensure the collective survival of the community. A rebellious act of one individual not only represented a threat to his or her life but also to the lives of his or her family and the black community as a whole. This tension, between the need to conform for survival and the need to rebel in order to achieve individual and community dreams, is one that animated Wright’s life and his autobiography. In the book, Richard lays bare the paranoia and difficulty of being a black man in America, even the supposedly non-racist America of the North. When he fled from the south to Chicago, Wright suddenly entered a new environment: The culture was more tolerant, but lingering beneath was a latent racism.

Richard found that the fear of uncertainty engendered by this racism, by the constant subconscious knowledge that blacks in America were second class citizens, could drive many American blacks to submit to white authority simply because it offered the security of knowing what to expect. In the North, Richard could sit next to white man on public transportation, and he could even accuse a white co-worker of spitting in the food at a restaurant where he worked. However, for a long while, Richard did not know how to act. He, like many blacks, feared committing an offense that might lead to the revocation of the meager rights they had finally achieved. Richard’s search for belonging eventually brought him to Communism. But just as Wright found insufficient the dictates of the black community and of religion, he soon came to find the paranoia, fear, pettiness, and dogmatism of the communist party to be too much. He agreed with Communist political philosophy but not with its practice. Wright’s search for self, a theme that runs throughout his life of rebellion.

Black Boy

Black Boy
Black Boy is a story written in first person through the black boy’s eyes. The story opens with the black boy cleaning eyeglasses at the sink during the morning hours before lunch. As the boy washed eyeglasses this day as all other days, Mr. Olin, a white man who ordered the black boy around hovered over him. While striking up conversation with the black boy, Mr. Olin asks a ridiculous question if the black boy is his friend. This question in the story is the first step in developing the plot. The black boy, fearful of the Mr. Olin and the power he has over him, decides to lie to him and tell him that he is his friend. Mr. Olin begins to trick the black boy in thinking that another black boy named Harrison wants to fight him because of words that were taken the wrong way. The black boy gets worried because he does not remember saying anything insulting to Harrison, and he wants to talk to him and make things right. Mr. Olin tells the black boy that he will go and speak to Harrison for him. During the black boys lunch break he goes and talks to Harrison himself about the situation, but soon they realize that they are being set up to fight each other in order to entertainment to the white men. Both black boys keep their mouths shut about speaking to each other and knowing the truth that neither of them wants to fight. Mr. Olin and Harrison’s boss both keep egging them on for weeks to fight each other and finally bribe them with five dollars to box fight. Harrison is interested because he wants a suit and this money will help, but the other black boy knows that this is shameful and does not want to fight no matter what the bribe is. For days Harrison and the black boy dispute whether to box or not, and they finally decided to box but to pretend. The day comes to fight and both stare each other in the face realizing that they do not have enough knowledge about fighting to fake the whole scene. The fight begins and the two boys angry at themselves, each other, and their authority begin to fight and shed blood. After their fight both boys feel shame and degraded and never fight again although they are egged on many times after.
The character of the black boy is an interesting person because he respects himself though he lives in a society where respect is not known to blacks at all. Many believe that blacks are so uneducated and unintelligent in this society. Mr. Olin is one person who shows throughout the story that he thinks the black boys are brainless. Asking the black boy in his own factory if he believes they are friends is the first scene in which he shows that he believes that black boys are dim-witted. The black boy confronting Harrison himself shows that he is a brave person and that he has a big heart. He states that he does not remember saying anything insulting, but that he wants to make things clear and right between the two of them. He also shows that he values himself through his reasoning in not fighting. He repeatedly says that the he does not want to be like dogs or roosters, staged to fight for entertainment of others. I find the black boy very respectable because he goes against society and does not disrespect himself though he knows others do. I am very disappointed in the end because I believe he lets himself down by finally surrendering his self worth to fight Harrison and looking like a dog! Obviously he knows he let himself down as well because he felt shame and hated himself for what he had done.
Reading this text I am ashamed of the white society during this time. I believe that the intellectual level was switched especially in this story between the blacks and the whites. Obviously, Mr. Olin was the brainless one in this story and the black boy was the smart one figuring out Mr. Olin. Richard Wright really brings the story into reality by illustrating the way he feels about the whites wanting them to fight to dogs fighting because dogs are still today staged to fight for entertainment. I personally believe this was a sad story, but it is our history and I need to be knowledgeable about the facts of society during this time. I am very impressed with Richard writing about himself as a black boy and the worth he had for himself shows throughout the story.


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