Self Creation and Racial Oppression

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Examine the conflict between racial oppression and self-creation in Black Boy

Black Boy by Richard Wright examines the struggles of a young black boy, against black segregation during 1945 in Southern USA. The author Richard Wright represented those struggles, where whites found difficulty to accept blacks as part of their society, and blacks tried to find ways to assert themselves on society. Racial oppression in Black Boy stems from a refusal to recognize an individual, Richard Wright to possess certain gifts due to his black color. Self-creation in Black Boy shows Richard Wright's attempt to live life on his own terms despite certain expectations set upon him from blacks and whites to act accordingly. Through religion, education and violence Richard Wright is able to bring out his individualistic self on the society that surrounds him.

After Richard's mother Ella suffers from a paralytic stroke Richard, his brother Alan and Ella move to Jackson, Mississippi with Granny and their family in order to decide how to take care of Ella and her two boys. Ella remains in Jackson, Alan moves to Detroit with his Aunt Maggie and Richard decides to stay with his Uncle Clark close to Jackson. When Richard finds out that a young boy died in his bedroom, he pleads to move back to Granny's to face a familiar problem of hunger. However to his further dismay, Granny and Aunt Addie are very strict religious activists and find Richard's lack of interest in religion and obsession in reading and writing very sinful. This creates many conflicts between Richard and his family, where Granny forces Richard to attend Aunt Addie's religious school. Despite the beatings Richard receives from his family's insistence on faith, he remains defiant towards his principals. According to the article, The Effect of Black/White Imagery in Richard Wright's Black Boy, Caskill suggests "'black' denotes sin, filth and ignorance whereas 'white' signifies virtue, purity and wisdom."[1] Therefore the reader can assume that Granny's devotion to faith comes from her desire to be white, pure and virtuous. Her violence towards Richard degrades her and Caskill interestingly mentions that "Granny considers herself one of the saints in her religious fanaticism, but commits acts of cruelty and repression which tarnish that halo."[2] On the other hand and to the complete contrary, Richard's image of whiteness after he gets beaten is associated with disease, "Whenever I tried to sleep I would see huge wobbly white bags, like the full udders of cows, suspended from the ceiling… and I was gripped by the fear that they were going to fall and drench me with some horrible liquid."[3] Although, according to the article, "white" Granny behaves according to how society expect her to behave, Richard's resentment is also generated from the hating members of the white community who killed his Uncle Hoskins, who provided Richard with food and shelter due to Uncle Hoskins success as a black man. Evidently, Richard's aspirations handicap him due to his surroundings.

In Richard, the reader views a character of strong-willed nature determined to formulate his life the way he perceives it. This contrasts with his powerless position in society that comes with being black and poor, thus he must learn to educate himself. According to The Journal The Education of the Negro in Richard Wright's Black Boy, "Wright learned from his poverty that there was no one to whom he could turn but himself. In his case, the poverty worked as a spur to his ambition."[4] The difficult moments Richard experienced as a child persuade him to succeed, no matter the cost since troubles have taken their toll. Despite his family's unsympathetic approach, Richard enjoys his studies and to the surprise of everyone he publishes in a black local newspaper a story called "The Voodoo of Hell's Half-Acre" as an opportunity to "learn to write." As Vogel states, "Any sort of creative education was beyond the scope of the...
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