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Biography Precis -- Black Boy

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Biography Precis -- Black Boy

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  • October 8, 1999
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Biography Precis -- Black Boy

Black Boy , an autobiography by Richard Wright, is an account of a young African-American boy's thoughts and outlooks on life in the South while growing up. The novel is 288 pages, and was published by Harper and Row Publishers in © 1996. The main subject, Richard Wright, who was born in 1908, opens the book with a description of himself as a four-year-old in Natchez, Mississippi, and his family's later move to Memphis. In addition it describes his early rebellion against parental authority, and his unsupervised life on the streets while his mother is at work. His family lives in poverty and faces constant hunger. As a result his family lives with his strict grandmother, a fervently religious woman. In spite of his frequent punishment and beatings, Wright remembers the pleasures of rural life.

Richard then describes his family's move to Memphis in 1914. Though not always successful, Richard's rebellious nature pervades the novel. This is best illustrated by his rebellion against his father. He resents his father's the need for quiet during the day, when his father, a night porter, sleeps. When Mr. Wright tells Richard to kill a meowing kitten if that's the only way he can keep it quiet, Richard has found a way to rebel without being punished. He takes his father literally and hangs the kitten. But Richard's mother punishes him by making him bury the kitten and by filling him with guilt. Another theme is seen when his father deserts the family, and Richard faces severe hunger. For the first time, Richard sees himself as different from others, because he must assume some of the responsibilities of an adult. In contrast to his above characteristics, Richard soon shows his ability in learning, even before he starts school, which he begins at a later age than other boys because his mother couldn't afford his school clothes. Rebellion, hunger (for knowledge and food), and the sense of being different will continue with...