How the Author of the Book Essay

Pages: 14 (4193 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Literature

Wright's Black Boy: A Journey of Growth and a Search for Self through the Salvation of Art

Richard Wright's novel, Black Boy is a combination of themes that explore the depth of life as an African-American in the Jim Crow South. While racism if the obvious theme of the book, Wright delves deep into the individual character of Richard, allowing readers to experience his hopes and dreams and what he will do to achieve them. Richard's journey of self begins and end with the same strong-willed individual, completely comfortable questioning anything that seems awkward to him. His willingness to ask questions is just one of the reasons fate has destined him to be a writer. He seeks the answers and seeks to share them with the world. His journeys are varied but they are real and give the novel texture and credibility.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Historical Context

1-2

Discovery of Self

2-3

Spirit of Independence

3-4

Racism

4-5

Writing

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Essay on How the Author of the Book Assignment

Richard Wright's novel, Black Boy is more than one man's tale being an African-American during Jim Crow. It encompasses other tales as well, including the literary technique of the Bildingsroman to emphasize Richard's growth. Richard's journey is complex, painful, and fraught with experiences that challenge his sense of self. The strong will that causes him trouble in his childhood is the same strong will that will not allow him to give up his dream. It is also the same will that will not allow Richard to conform to the pressure of society -- be them from his African-American community or the white one. He learns to survive but he never completely understands the real reason for the difference between races. Another important aspect of the novel is Richard's attempt at discovering his identity. This yearning is bolstered with an innate desire to create art with words. Without the opportunity to write and express his emotions, he may have become a different individual altogether. Black Boy is Richard's story but it includes many layers that allow us to see the importance of self-knowledge - especially in a world that attempts to break the independent spirit. Richard's story is also about the salvation of art and how literature -- reading and writing it -- saves his life on more than one occasion simply because he could be removed from his immediate circumstances through reading. Black Boy gives us a slice of Richard's life that comes full circle, with the individual caught in the mesmerizing effects of creating something wildly courageous and dangerous.

Historical Context: Black Boy is, undoubtedly, a novel to be viewed with racism in mind. Additionally, it helps to understand the character knowing he is living in the South during Jim Crow. During this time, most African Ameican men were dehumanized and, while they were free, could never find anything better than lowly jobs that whites did not want to do. The Great Depression compounded things for all and Richard watched his father work a series of menial jobs to raise his family.

The most important aspect of the novel from this instance is the fact that we have first-hand accounts of events and circumstances that directly shape our protagonist. This point-of-view is important because we see, just as our protagonist begins to realized, just how poised against the success of African-Americans society actually was. This reality is important to Richard because of his independent personality. He experiences restrictions and rules in his and when he ventures outside the home, he begins to discover only more rules and regulations that seem to reinforce oppression. The most shocking of these realizations is how African-Americans are so accepting of the ways things are. They support subordination through their behavior and only make their plight worse. To discover this, Richard had to get out there in the world and that he does a t a relatively young age. Race is only a part of what causes Richard problems early in his life. He is also plagued with a strong will. It is not so much that he wants to be a nonconformist for white society, he wants to be a nonconformist altogether. While he was told he was too young to comprehend many of the difficult issues of life, Richard knew certain truths. He experiences distance from his friends and is left with only himself to contemplate the troubles of the world. He moves from city to explore the to options life may have for him. He leaves the South to find a better way. He discovers there will always be those bent on tearing others down if they choose to disagree or make trouble. Some of these issues stem from racism but some are the result of humans living on the same planet. Richard acts upon his convictions instead of allowing the world to convince him it is right and he is wrong. He learns we make our own destiny but the only way to do that is to do it on our own terms.

An important aspect of the novel is Richard's discover of self. Wright introduces us to a classic Bildingsroman when we see young Richard lost in the glow of the fireplace. From this early experience, we begin to see how events shape Richard's personality. The incident with the fire reveals a significant aspect of Richard's personality: he is rebellious and he will do as he pleases without giving much thought to consequences. He even defies his father when he kills the kitten, explaining that he finally has a way to challenge his authority -- by simply taking him literal when he says things. He thought is his father beat him for killing the kitten he would "never give serious weight to his words again" (Wright 13). His mother, however forces him to dig the kitten a grave and whisper a prayer for his own life before retiring. Here we see the young boy attempting to outsmart his father in hopes of never receiving another beating again only to be subjected to his mother's wrath. After he finds himself out of work one summer, he contemplates the nature of the world in which he lives. He writes that he grows "silent and reserved" (193) as he begins to understand the "bleakness of the future" (193). He questions what he can do for a living and he wonders why things are such that life is so difficult for the African-American. The "problem of living as a Negro was cold and hard . . What was it that made the hate of whites for blacks so steady, seemingly so woven into the texture of things? What kind of life was possible under that hate?" (193). When he asks people these questions they "either remain silent or turn the subject into a joke" (193-4). Here we see how the difficulty of the African-American is not just with the whites -- it is also within the minds of the African-Americans. They may believe they are worth more and they may feel they deserve a better life but they are either too afraid of the system or they believe there is nothing they can do because they have no power and no powerful voices to speak on their behalf. These events shape Richard into someone that begins searching for the truth that must be out there -- between what he has learned and what he can imagine. It is difficult for Richard to discover a sense of self because his environment is hostile. He must deal daily with hunger and violence on some level. What is interesting is how his hunger changes over the years. The search for self leads Richard into a place that few are brave enough to enter.

The first step in self-discovery is realizing things can be different and acting upon that knowledge. These actions may not always be wise but they lead to knowledge abut oneself. Richard's personality is such that he is strong enough to ask the right questions and challenge the conventions of society. This is difficult for a boy living in the South where most African-Americans are segregated and treated poorly. At an early age, Richard realizes what is important to him. He experiences freedom at an early age because his grandmother and aunt have written him off. However, he does not abuse this freedom the way that one might expect. He walks around neighborhoods to get a sense of the world around him. Knowing once he went home, he would be forced to stay home, he simply did not go home until late. He writes, "I would eat mush at eight in the morning and greens at seven or later at night. To starve in order to learn about my environment was irrational, but so were my hungers" (148-9). He admits to feeling overwhelmed with hunger at times but the "happiness of being free would lift me beyond hunger, would enable me to discipline the sensations of my body to the extent that I… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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