Richard Wright?s ?Black Boy? depicts the different observations of the South and the North. In the South, Wright faces pre-depression and racism. In the North, Wright faces the conflicts from the Communist party. At the end of Black Boy, Wright quotes ?What had I got out of living in the city? What had I got out of living in the South??(Wright 452)
Wright?s thought of the South was that the South was a socially unreconstructed region where blacks who asserted their basic human rights invited punishment or death. Black Boy forces the reader to imagine the Southern life from a Negro point of view. The perspective of the South is that the entire society is assembled to keep the Negro in his place. White society of the South restricts a black person?s freedom of movement, discourages his ambition, and banishes the black person to a place of inferiority. In Black Boy, an elevator boy named Shorty invites a white man to kick him for a quarter. Shorty is a symbol of nothingness because he does not have any pride in himself and towards his race. Wright would rather die that have himself kicked. Wright marvels at the willingness of southern Negroes who control themselves, their hopes and dreams. Black Boy states that the South is so dark that Wright wanders over the fact that the sun is still shining. 1)
Readers are felt free to make false charges on the South were forced to inspect the problems of race, oppression and class in the North. Due to segregation in the South, it was unthinkable for a black boy to become a writer. Wright learns that his people grope at the Southern life making them believe in a better world up North. Wright leaves the South so that he could engage himself with reality. Wright?s reflections on the South ended with a quote, ?This was the culture from which I sprang, this was the terror from which I fled.?(Wright 303)
When Wright goes to Chicago, Wright did not go North with a sense of what he wanted to become. In the North, Wright faces the pressure of the Communist Party. In the Communist Party, the themes of black and white are less intense. The issue of black and white as a race continues but Wright notes, he now feels ?a different sort of tension, a different kind of in security.?(Bloom 86)
Wright?s early experiences in the North were different of what had happened to him in the South.
The North was transformed by the urban environment into clear ideas about the constrictions placed on human freedom in the North as well as in the South. Although Wright was becoming well known for his writing, he still faced racism. While attending the New York Conference, Wright refused a room in a ?white only? hotel in Harlem.(Wright 408)
Black Boy challenges our stereotypical thinking of the South and the North. In the South, Wright shows how ignorance and racial discrimination lead to prejudice and self-hatred. Wright shows how Communists dominate intellectual communion and social contacts in the North. At the end of Black Boy, Wright has a clear awareness that all the places where he experienced has threatened to diminish his spirit. Wright?s Black Boy sends a message of optimism about the possibility of the black Southerners achieving a fulfilling sense of identity in America.
?He came like a sledgehammer, like a giant out of the mountain with a sledgehammer, writing with a sledgehammer??(Bloom 123) Historian John Henrick Clarke stated this quote about Richard Wright. Wright wrote Black Boy whom creates a version of himself whose metaphor for survival and livelihood is false.
Wright eliminates the uses of names in Black Boy, not even that of Richard?s brother, Leon Allen. The story of Uncle Hoskins of how he plays a minor trick to scare Wright is not true, for how could a boy whose life at that point be so violent, be scared of his uncle?s harmless trick? As Wright goes from school to school, there was an absence of names like Lucy McCranie who recognized his intelligence. In Black Boy, there was no question about his status in these schools, since Wright was head of the class. Wright also avoids references to peer associations like Dick Jordan and Essie Lee Ward who was in touch with Wright several years later when Wright was living in Chicago. As a child, Wright leaves out his activities with the Dick Wright Clan in Black Boy, which was made up of a bunch of neighborhood boys who honored in the name of society.
Wright has little to say directly about sex in Black Boy. Wright?s most serious temptations for sex is when he moves to Memphis and is taken by the Moss family. Wright succeeds in resisting the opportunity to take advantage of Bess, the daughter who Mrs. Moss seeks to push upon. Wright?s exposure to white women gave Wright the strength to deal with black and white sexual relations in the south. Wright doesn?t take an interest in sex and it is strange that Wright would not record his sexual episodes because sex is a gradual maturing for an adolescent. Wright?s world is mostly feminine because male contacts are gone, except for the occasional encounters with uncles. 4)
Wright?s life emphasizes two kinds of struggles in Black Boy. One, is the battle for physical existence, the need for food and protection that is concerned in the early pages of Black Boy. The second, Wright grows deeply felt to acquire his own male identity. Before Black Boy?s graduation, Wright?s refusal to deliver the principal?s graduation speech rather than his own is based on truth, but Black Boy leaves out the important fact that Wright rewrote his speech, cutting out changeable passages as a compromise. The treatment of whites is somewhat false in Black Boy. Wright?s relationship with the Wall family does not fit them as an abusive and brutal family. Although, Black Boy describes the effects of racism of a black child, the Walls were generous people. Wright works for the Walls bringing in firewood and the Walls consider their house a second home to Wright where he understands them more than his own family.
Wright wrote Black Boy knowing that the book should not be read as a historical truth which struggles to report those false facts, but read as a narrative truth. Wright does not mention that his mother was a successful schoolteacher and that many of his friends were college faculty members. Wright also leaves out his father?s family background, which could have explained what type of person Wright?s father was. 5)
3) Hayley Mitchell, Readings on Black Boy, San Diego, Ca, David L. Bender @2000