Analysis: Richard Wright / Black Boy
Richard Wright was born in 1908 on a cotton plantation not far from Natchez, Mississippi. His father was a sharecropper, Nathan abandons the family to live with another woman while Richard and his brother, Alan, are still very young. Without Nathan’s financial support, the Wrights fall into poverty and perpetual hunger. Richard closely associates his family’s hardship and particularly their hunger with his father and therefore grows bitter toward him. His mother struggled as a cook and housemaid to raise two growing boys. When Wright was 11 his mother suffered a series of paralytic strokes. Her chronic illness set the emotional tone of his life and his writing with a “somber cast”. (Wright) “At the age of twelve, before I had had one full year of formal schooling, I had a conviction that the meaning of living came only when one was struggling to wring a meaning out of meaningless suffering. At the age of twelve I had an attitude toward life that was to make me skeptical of everything while seeking everything, tolerant of all and yet critical that could only keep alive in me that enthralling sense of wonder and awe in the face of the drama of human feeling which is hidden by the external drama of life.”(Wright)
Richard’s most essential characteristic is his tremendous belief in his own worth and capabilities. This belief frequently renders him willful, stubborn, and disrespectful of authority, putting him at odds with his family and with those who expect him to accept his degraded position in society. Because almost everyone in Richard’s life thinks this way, he finds himself constantly punished for his nonconformity with varying degrees of physical violence and emotional isolation. Though Richard shows signs of insecurity, inferiority, and shame around some whites, his self-assurance seems largely invulnerable, and his punishing childhood only serves to convince him of his own right to succeed in the world. Richard’s...
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