Richard Wright’s Survival Story

What are little boys made of? Boys consist of frogs, snails and puppy-dogs’ tails.  Richard Wright provides a different perspective in his autobiography Black Boy.  Wright offers a poignant, yet compelling narrative of his life in the American south.

Richard Wright grew up in Mississippi facing racism and poverty.  Wright’s family struggled to survive. He worked odd jobs and hustled to help his family. Richard showed potential in school.  Despite this, teachers discouraged his dream of becoming a writer. He could not accept the rules of engagement for Blacks during Jim Crow. Blacks must work and stay silent to endure segregation.

Wright and his family saved enough money to move to Chicago.  While is Chicago, he encounters pity, indifference, and contempt.  He joined the Communist party and finds a community.  He contributed to Communist publications and mentored artists in the party. The Communist party denounced Wright because of his intellectual interests. Ultimately, he leaves the Communist party filled with frustration. 

Wright is a very skilful storyteller. The book’s major strength is the dialogue. He offers a very clear voice and descriptive narrative. For example, the passage below offers insight into why writing and literature are so important.

I spent my nights reading Proust’s A Remembrance of Things Past, admiring the lucid, subtle but strong prose, stupefied by its dazzling magic, awed by the vast, delicate, intricate and psychological structure of the Frenchman’s epic of death and decadence. But it crushed me with hopelessness, for I wanted to write of the people in my environment with an equal thoroughness, and the burning example before me eyes made me feel that I never could.

There are segments that contain stream of consciousness writing. Specifically, certain passages ramble endlessly regarding random thoughts. This approach is haphazard in comparison to rest of the text.  For example, he is mulling over possibilities in the passage below.

If I passed a Catholic sister or mother dressed in black and smiled and allowed her to see my teeth, I would surely die. If I walked under a ladder, I would certainly have bad luck.  If I kissed my elbow, I would turn into a girl . . .

This passage provides little insight. This is a distraction from the storyline. There is no smooth transition from this segment and the rest of the book.  Fortunately, this is only one small part of his work.

Black Boy is a fluent and captivating chronicle.  Black Boy offers a vital depiction of an individual’s fight for freedom.

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