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Book Report: "Black Boy" by Richard Wright
The "Black Boy", also known as American Hunger, was written by Richard Wright. It is a non-fictitious autobiography published by Harper & Brothers in 1945. It traces the impoverished kind of childhood he experienced during his time in Southern and Northern America. It is divided into two sections: Southern Night and The Horror and the Glory. These are representing his childhood in the south and adulthood in Chicago respectively. During his childhood, Wright was brought up in an abject family. The impoverished status of his family worsened when his father deserted his ailing mother.
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Given that his mother could not care for him, he was forced to live with his extended family. However, living with his grandmother, uncles and aunts proved to be difficult. They perceived him as a mischievous child who was involved in subversive conduct. For instance, his grandmother opposed him for being an atheist. After undergoing lots of struggles, Wright decided to relocate to Chicago. However, he was disappointed when he realized that he could not get the jobs he had been hoping for. Instead, he only landed menial jobs which could not allow him to fulfill his ambition of sustaining his ailing mother whose condition was worsening.
Later, he joined the political arena to get a good platform to participate in the liberation struggles for his people. His ideologies did not appeal to the conservative party members who were greatly opposed to them. Instead, they viewed him as an uncooperative personality who was to be ripped off his party membership. In his conclusion, Wright insists that there is a hunger in the life of every human being.
The major theme explored in this autobiography is racism. Wright reports on the nature of racial segregation in this society. He says that his life in the south and Chicago was deliberately made difficult as a result of the racial segregation practiced in these places. However, he became conscious of racism when he grew older. He hated the rampant racist behaviors which confronted him in the 1920s. He said that the whites were very unfair people who did not treat him with dignity mainly because of his black nature. He said that he was bothered by ‘whites' desire to squash his intellectual curiosity and potential.’ Later, he faced the same challenge in Chicago where he had gone to look for a job. As events unfold, he realized that he could not land good employment mainly because of his complexion. Although he ‘finds the north less racist than the south,’ he only landed menial jobs. Later, he was confronted with brutal racists who drove him out of the Communist Party which he had joined to revolutionize the society.
Besides, there is a theme of poverty in this autobiography. Wright explored the impoverished life he found himself in, right from his childhood. There is a demonstration of hunger in his family. They were very poor and hungry for food. This happened especially after his biological father went away from home and left them under the care of his ailing mother. Life became difficult for the boy because she could not provide for him. Wright was longing for a fatherly love which he failed to get as a result of his father’s disappearance to an undisclosed destination. The condition of his mother compelled him to be under the care of his grandmother and other uncles. However, they were not happy with his atheistic beliefs. His hunger for a happy life made him engage in unlawful behaviors. For instance, during his horrific childhood, he opted to steal. As he explains, it was the only thing he could do to survive and satisfy his hunger for food. Later, his hunger for a happier life made him relocate to Chicago where he was admiring the living conditions. He was convinced that it would help him relieve his family from ‘starving to death.’ However, as events unfolded, this never came to be, since he was still confronted with the racial segregation he was escaping from in the south
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The other theme discussed by this author is irresponsibility. He says that his family was living in a very bad condition as a result of the irresponsible nature of his father. He did not take the initiative to provide for his family. The readers expect him to be responsible and take his time to provide for his family. Instead of looking for a job to get some money to feed his family, he opts to disappear. Moreover, he is a very violent man who does not please his family at all. Although his wife was sick, he chose not to provide her with basic needs and medication. This compelled her to rely on the help of her mother, brothers, and sisters. As Wright claims, the irresponsible nature of his father made him not enjoy parental care. Instead, he was raised by a conservative grandmother who never allowed him to express his freedom. For instance, he was not happy with his decision of being an atheist. At the same time, she openly disapproved of his love for reading. As an old person, she did not understand the role of education for her grandson. Wright faced all these agonies as a result of the irresponsible nature of his father.
Lastly, there is a theme of liberation. In his arguments, Wright asserts that ‘everyone has a hunger for life which needs to be fulfilled.’ He believes that individuals should come up and liberate society. He goes ahead to say that he desired to transform a society that made him resort to writing. In his opinion, writing is his way of appealing to the heart of the ordinary human being. As a revolutionist, Wright is symbolic of other Americans who face lots of challenges in their daily lives. Initially, his family rejected his decision to be an atheist. For instance, his grandmother who was a conservative insisted that he had to change his religious subscription from atheism to theism. Later, they condemned him for reading. However, as a revolutionist, he came up strongly and defended himself. This is the reason why he joined writing and the Communist party. He wanted to convince everyone to accept his liberation ideologies of tolerance, unity, and equality.
"Black Boy" is an invaluable text which gives a lot of education to the readers. Apart from sensitizing them on the tribulations of the author, it in a way, symbolizes the nature of racism in American society. As the author articulates, he was not happy with the degree of brutality African Americans and other minority migrant groups were subjected to. This society was harsh and discriminative to these people. Just like him, the whites would do all that they could to oppress them. For instance, he was deliberately denied a chance to advance his ambitions to excel in academics, politics, and his career. His efforts to participate in the political revolution were thwarted immediately after joining the Communist party. Instead of welcoming him, he was condemned for introducing ‘subversive’ ideologies which torn the party apart.
This is the same situation many people find themselves in. Racial discrimination has persisted for a very long time. However, he says that he was given the same treatment because of his skin color. After all, very many blacks had been expelled from the party on accusations of being nonreformists. Wright appeals to everybody to take the initiative to resolve their problems. Life is a very complex experience that has numerous hurdles. Since people experience different forms of hunger, they should take the initiative to look for a solution to resolve them once and for all.
Conclusively, this book report acknowledges that "Black Boy" is a well-written memoir that does not only inform the readers on the life of the author but also sensitizes them on the plights of blacks in American society. Historically, America is known to be a racially segregated nation. Although efforts have been made to eradicate it, it still exists today. The whites regard themselves to be superior to other races. However, it was worse at the time of Wright because of the immature democracy experienced in the country at the time. Thus, people like Write were not allowed to get an education, employment, and political dominance. In this regard, the author concludes by insisting that everyone has a hunger that must be satisfied. Just like him, all people should come to liberate themselves and the entire society from the yokes of oppression and discrimination. "Black Boy" is an invaluable text which everyone should aspire to read. It is a life-changing book that should be on the must-read list for anyone willing to revolutionize society.