The white world dominates the political and social life in all of Richard Wright’s books as Wright portrays the never-ending struggle that a young black male faces when growing up in the United States. Wright’s Black Boy, Native Son, Rite Of Passage, and The Long Dream are all bound by the common theme of self-realization. In all four books, the climax occurs when a black youth realizes his position in society and the ugly future that lies ahead of him.
In his autobiography Black Boy, Wright reveals his personal experience as a black maturing in a white society. The process of achieving self-realization is marked by all the verbal and physical battles that the main characters in Wright’s books must fight. He makes clear what all his characters experience, when he writes in Black Boy, “I had never in my life been abused by whites, but I had already become as conditioned to their existence as though I had been the victim of a thousand lynchings” (34). The powerful presence of whites in a black youth’s life is embedded since birth but emerges clearly during the period of self-realization for the black youth
In Native Son, the main character, Bigger Thomas, lives in a one-room apartment with his mother, brother, and sister in a black ghetto on the South Side of Chicago. Bigger sees whites through hate- and jealousy-filled eyes. Feelings of inferiority to whites consumes Bigger’s life. However, he tries to help his family by working for a wealthy, well-respected white family. But, in a moment of fear and hysteria, Bigger commits a murder that alters his life forever. Compared to the three other …
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…: W. W. Norton and Company, 1982. 671-673.
Marcus, Steven. Appiah 35-45.
Macksey, Richard and Frank E. Moorer, eds. Richard Wright. Englewood, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1984.
Margolies, Edward. Native Sons. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1968.
McCall, Dan. “Wright’s American Hunger.” Appiah 259-268.
Stepto, Robert. “Literacy and Ascent: Black Boy.” Appiah, 226-254.
Tanner, Laura E. “Uncovering the Magical Disguise of Language: The Narrative Presence in Richard Wright’s Native Son.” Appiah 132-146.
Thaddeus, Janice. “The Metamorphosis of Black Boy.” Appiah 272-284.
Wright, Richard. Black Boy. New York: Harper and Row, 1945.
_____. The Long Dream. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.
_____. Native Son. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
_____. Rite of Passage. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.
Richard Wright’s Black Boy as a Catalyst to End Racism
Black Boy as a Catalyst to End Racism
Around 2000 B.C., Egyptians enslaved Jews in bondage like caged animals because they were targeted as a lesser race and thus chosen for labor. Just 1500 years later, the Jews themselves were the culprits of racism labeling the very association with Samaritans as a deep sin. In 1861_1865, the United States divided brother against brother in one of its bloodiest battles of all time over black slavery.
Racism survives not simply as an intangible historic fable but as a real modern problem, also. In current civilization Arab Palestinians war with Israelis to find a homeland; the Ku Klux Klan draws its biggest membership influx in over 20 years;
and in the U.S. where freedom reigns, Americans have never to date voted a person into the president’s office who was not a white male. Denny’s restaurants, Texaco gas stations, and Avis car rental are a few of the number of national companies accused of extolling racism in this “apartheid America.” Although less subtle in the lives of Americans then, racism also thrived in the souls of people living during the 1920’s. Even though the war on
slavery was over in the battle fields, white racists were blood thirsty lions at heart, as was demonstrated in the book Black Boy.
The setting of Black Boy is in the deep south of Jackson, Mississippi where whites attempted to tame into submission blacks by hard discipline. Such was the case for Richard in Black Boy, his autobiography. It seemed that the more Richard gained success, the more he was hurt. In Black Boy, Richard is abused by whites because he reminds the whites of their lack of identity and failure to meet society’s expectations. Their lives became bland…
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…elf_imposed humility, the person gets a sense of gratification in his life. He now knows that he has a good reason to keep going. Eventually the person will also receive that same love from others. Therefore, a new source for positive gratification and love is created, making racism obsolete.
These principles have not been fully successful as people are naturally more willing to be lethargic than active, more likely to be followers than leaders, usually submit rather than stand up for themselves. They need courage. The courage must come from the love within, it must be true courage. For some, it doesn’t come naturally, but with one strong foot forward, and a heart for others, racism can be defeated and the world can live in peace and equality.
Wright, Richard. Black Boy (American Hunger): A Record of Childhood and Youth. 1998 ed.