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Black Boy by Richard Wright

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The mid 1900’s was a time in which we suffered from a national depression, foreign tension, and racism. It was a time when Jim Crow laws were enforced, segregation signs could be seen on every corner, and hatred for any other race could be seen in the eyes and hearts of many Americans. The struggle of racism and the dark time in American history is greatly depicted, with several negative aspects by Richard Wright’s personal composition, Black Boy.

Wright’s autobiography does an outstanding job of illustrating and educating people on the dark times he lived through. Every interaction he describes between an Africa American, often himself, and a Caucasian allows the reader to feel his, or their, humiliation, while sinking to the depths of his, or their, soul. This can be seen when Richard is working at a clothing store, and he witnesses two white men beat an African American woman. He himself writes of the situation, “They got out and half dragged and half kicked the woman into the store. White people passed and looked on without expression. A white policeman watched from the corner, twirling his night stick; but he made no move” (Wright 179). This scene shows how little they thought of African Americans and how the color of your skin determined the actions that one was allowed to perform during this time period. The literary work is filled with scenes, such as these, grasping every detail and feeling accompanied with each situation; this is just one of the many positive aspects this book contains.

One negative aspect would be that every Caucasian encountered by Richard is racist, whereas every Caucasian wasn’t racist. Granted the majority did discriminate, but some knew that it was terribly wrong. Although, there are many instances where whites displace nasty behavior towards Richard or others, one in particular instance occurs when he is confronted by the two men at the optical company. One man reprimands him saying, “Didn’t you call him Pease? If you say you didn’t, I’ll rip your gut strong loose with this f-k-g bar, you black granny dodger! You can’t call a white man a liar and get away with it” (Wright 190). Almost every white man in the book was portrayed in this light, besides Mr. Crane. This is definitely one negative because not all whites looked down on African Americans.

Another negative part of “Black Boy” was that sometimes Wright’s writing was extremely hard to follow and process. One such example is, “I walked up the steps and was about to ring the bell when I saw a big mulatto woman staring at me through the window. Oh hell, I thought. This is a whorehouse…I stopped” (Wright 208). This was puzzling because I could not comprehend why he would get such a notion and why he took the actions he did. Other such instances continuously occur throughout the book, due to lack of explanation.

Black Boy is already an excellent read that compels and takes the reader in, consuming them in all the book has to offer. However, the novel has the potential to be extraordinary with just a few tweaks. The author could have included more Caucasians such as Mr. Crane or could have expressed his knowledge that not all whites were racist. Wright could have also explained his thoughts on particular issues and in particular scenes, thus making text easier to follow, as well as comprehend. These are just a few corrections that this literary work is in need of in order to be of a higher caliber.

Black Boy is a tool that teaches and reminds the reader of just how dark our past has been, while improving the importance of being one’s self. However, Black Boy insinuates through multiple scenes that all whites were racist. The autobiography was also hard to follow, due to the lack of explanation and incoherence. These negative things could all be easily changed if Mr. Wright included more white Yankees, such as Mr. Crane, while also elaborating or adding more explanation to his thoughts and actions. The enriching, intriguing, and intense novel by Richard Wright contains both positive and negative things, in which could be tweaked but also help to form, “an inspiring, powerful, beautiful, and fictionalized autobiography” (Felgar).



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