Black Boy Theme Analysis: Alienation

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Richard Wright chronicles his years as a probing youth in a society that rejects people of his caliber. Throughout "Black Boy" he feels a constant tension between himself and the people with whom he interacts, and this electrically charged atmosphere often results in his alienation from others.

During his brief time under the tutelage of Aunt Addie (Ch. 4), he suffers false accusations and discovers that his aunt assumes that her nephew's persistent denials and back-talking will debilitate the "morale" of the class. Her harsh treatment stems from her own lack of confidence and awareness of Richard's uniqueness, bringing him into a separate world of undeserved punishment, making it clear that he was different from the others and would therefore not receive the same courtesies.

Religiously, Richard was also isolated from the community as some sort of heathen, but at the same time, mercilessly preyed upon to conform and save his soul. If he was to remain in Granny's house, he had to attend her innumerous Seventh Day Adventist sermons and endure the insistence of Addie and Granny to become a believer. His friends and neighbors were "employed" by his two meddling female superiors to try and convince the reprobate to cease his ways and Richard shocks one of his schoolmates by accidentally uttering blasphemous words. He finds his Granny constantly praying for him out loud in mournful tones, and even his mother attempts desperately to bind him in a promise. But Richard is rooted in his physical experiences; spirituality refuses to penetrate his shell and he remains the ever-stubborn heretic in his determination.

Later, Richard experiences even more radical dissent in response to his individuality. After ditching several unsatisfactory jobs, he meets up with old friend Griggs, who recommends him to an optical company. Richard looks at the prospect of occupational advancement in a brighter perspective, and the Yankee boss's promise of learning how to operate the...
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