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"Black Boy" by Richard Wright

Chapters One,Two, and Three presentation
by

Rosemary Sibold

on 1 October 2013

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Transcript of "Black Boy" by Richard Wright

"Black Boy" by Richard Wright

Chapters One and Two

Richard Wright
Richard Wright was born in 1908 and died in 1960. He wrote the first bestselling novel, "Native Sun", by a black American writer.
Richard Wright's autobiographical work, "Black Boy", earned him the title as "father" of the post-WWII black novel and precursor of the Black Arts movement of the 1960s.
Wright is known as one of the most powerful forces in twentieth-century American literature.
Main Characters
Richard Wright
Author, narrator, and protagonist
In the beginning, he is curious, wild, and naive.
“My idea was growing, blooming. Now I was wondering just how the long fluffy curtains would look if I lit a bunch of straws and held it under them. Would I try it? Sure” (4).
Ella Wright
Richard's mother
Is she a good mother? She works hard to support her children, but constantly is either upset with Richard or beating him.
Broken and suffering, could be extreme to gain control over her life
"I'm going to teach you this night to stand up and fight for yourself... Take this money, this note, and this stick' she said. 'Go to the store and buy those groceries. If those boys bother you, then fight" (17).
Nathan Wright
Richard's father, ruled the family with an iron fist, demands silence and obedience from his children.
Father = hunger
"He was the lawgiver in our family and I never laughed in his presence... He was always a stranger to me, always alien and remote" (10).
Although Richard insists he has moved on from his dad, we continually have Richard comparing other men to his father. (example: the Pastor)
Granny
Strictly religious
Seems to block Richard's desires at every turn
"It might have been that my tardiness in learning to sense white people as "white" people came from the fact that many of my relatives were "white"- looking people. My grandmother, who was white as any "white" person, had never looked "white" to me" (23).
Themes
Death of the Kitten
"I had had my first triumph over my father. I had made him believe that I had taken his words literally. He could not punish me now without risking his authority. I was happy because I had at last found a way to throw my criticism of him into his face. I had made him feel that, if he whipped me for killing the kitten, I would never give serious weight to his words again. I had made him know that I felt he was cruel and I had done it without his punishing me" (12).

Question: What does this quote reveal, especially the fact that Richard wants power over his father?
The Effects of Racism (The problem of racism and how it affects society)
The Individual versus Society
The Power of Art
Deprivation (of food, feelings, knowledge)
Religion
The American Dream
Conflicts
Man vs. Society
-Richard vs. Black Community
-Richard vs. White Community

Man vs. Self
-Richard facing his pride
-Richard facing religion
Motifs
definition: any element, subject, idea or concept that is constantly present throughout the work

Hunger
Reading
Violence
Ella as a symbol of suffering
"My mother's suffering grew into a symbol in my mind, gathering to itself all the poverty, the ignorance, the helplessness; the restless moving, the futile seeking, the uncertainty, the fear, the dread; the meaning less pain and the endless suffering. Her life set the emotional tone of my life, colored the men and women I was to meet in the future, conditioned my relation to events that had not yet happened, determined my attitude to situations and circumstances I had yet to face" (100).

Question: How does this realization change Richard's view on life?
Ella reading "Bluebeard and His Seven Wives
"The tale made the world around me be, throb, live. As she spoke, reality changed, the look of things altered, and the world became peopled with magical presences. My sense of life deepened and the feel of things was different, somehow. Enchanted and enthralled, I stopped her constantly to ask for details. My imagination blazed. The sensations the story aroused in me were never to leave me. When she was about to finish, when my interest was keenest, when I was lost to the world around me, Granny stepped briskly onto the porch. 'You stop that, you evil gal!' she shouted. 'I want none of that Devil stuff in my house!" (39)

Question: What does the story represent to Richard? To Granny?
Hunger
"When supper was over I saw that there were many biscuits piled high upon the bread platter, an astonishing and unbelievable sight to me. Though the biscuits were right before my eyes, and though there was more flour in the kitchen, I was apprehensive lest there be no bread for breakfast in the morning. I was afraid that somehow the biscuits might disappear during the night, while I was sleeping. I did not want to wake up in the morning, as I had so often in the past, feeling hungry and knowing that there was no food in the house" (50).
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