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 Richard... [continues]
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