Black Boy


Given Black Boy’s emphasis on racial inequality in America, many of the motifs refer to the lingering aspects of slave narratives in present day. These motifs include violence, religion, starvation, familial unity and lack thereof, literacy, and the North Star as a guide towards freedom.[3] The depictions of lingering racial animosity are at the core of the arguments in favor of censorship for many critics.[1] The prevalence of violence amidst and against Blacks in America ties back to the violence exerted upon slaves generations before.[8] The theme of violence intermixes with the notion of race as Wright suggests that violence is deeply entrenched into a system where people are distinguished based on their race.[6] Regardless of Wright's efforts to break free from this violent lifestyle, a society based on differences will always feed on an inescapable discourse. Wright’s skeptical view of Christianity mirrors the religious presence for many slaves.[1] Throughout Black Boy, this skepticism of religion is present as Richard regards Christianity as being primarily based on a general inclusion in a group rather than incorporating any meaningful, spiritual connection to God.[3] The general state of poverty and hunger that Wright endures reflects, to a lesser degree, similar obstacles that slaves faced.[8] Wright’s portrayal of hunger goes beyond a lack of food to represent a metaphorical kind of hunger in his yearning for a better, freer life. In his search for a better life in the North, Richard is seeking to fulfill both his physical and metaphorical hungers for more.[3] The cyclical portrayal of poverty in Black Boy represents society as a personified enemy that crushes dreams for those who aren’t in command of high society.[6] The strong attempt at maintaining family unity also relates to the efforts amidst slaves to remain connected through such immense hardship.[9] Wright’s longing to journey North in search of improvement embodies the slaves longing to follow the North Star on the freedom trains in search of freedom.[8] Despite the harsh reality upon arrival, throughout Black Boy, the North is represented as a land of opportunity and freedom. Lastly, Wright’s focus on literacy as a weapon towards personal freedom also reflects the efforts of many slaves hoping to free themselves through the ability to read and write.[8] The emphasis on literacy complicates the notion of finding freedom from a physical space to a mental power attained through education.

The most general impact of Black Boy is shown through Wright’s efforts to bring light to the complexities of race relations in America, both the seen and unseen.[3] Given the oppression and lacking education for blacks in America, the raw honesty of their hardships was rarely heard and even more rarely given literary attention, making the impact of Black Boy’s narrative especially influential. The book works to show the underlying inequalities that Wright faced daily in America.[1]

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