Black Boy is a classic of American autobiographical works written in 1945. It can be truly considered a narrative journey of the author Richard Wright from innocence to experience. As the strong and remarkable story of one male’s coming of age, the memoir Black Boy remains a constructive work in American history about what it means to be a black man from South. The author has explored his childhood, race relations of the South, and his final move to Chicago, where he established his writing career and became involved in the American Communistic Party.
The profound works of Richard Wright with an undoubtedly strong and vivid aspect have impacted the modern generation of writers. The author’s novel Native Son is about a young black man growing up in Chicago’s South ghetto. The memoir Black Boy is about the early years Wright spent in the South. Other books were changed or cut, primarily because of the political, racial, or sexual sincerity in its content (Blau, 1991).
Wright found out the north was less racist than the south and, the author started forming certain ideas about American race relations. Firstly, Wright thought he would find friends within the Communist party, especially among its black members, but he found them to be just as afraid of challenges as the southern whites he had abandoned behind. The Communists fear anybody who disagrees with their ideas, and Richard Wright, who has always been inclined to doubts and used to speak his mind, was quickly proclaimed as the counter-revolutionary personality. When Wright tried to leave the Communist party, he was blamed of trying to lead other people away from it.
After witnessing the lawsuit of another black Communist for the counter-revolutionary actions, Richard Wright decided to leave the party. He has remained the enemy of Communism, and party members threatened him away from various jobs and meetings. However, Wright did not struggle with them since he felt Communists were clumsily groping towards ideas he supported like equality, solidarity, and tolerance. The author considered everyone had a “hunger” for life that needed to be filled. For Richard Wright, writing was his certain way to get to the humans’ hearts (Wright, 1945, chapter 20).
Moreover, it is difficult to understand the memoir Black Boy without knowledge of American Communism in the 1930s and 1940s. Then, American society has observed the collapse of the stock market, massive unemployment, industry stagnation, and even starvation in some parts of the country. (Storch, 2005). American intellectuals were alarmed by the capitalistic way of production, which caused dreadful challenges and, afterwards they did almost nothing to facilitate or diminish them. Communists believed in the dignity, nobility and agency of individuals who seemed to suffer the most. Communist party claimed their political philosophy was based on scientific standards. Moreover, they promoted a theory of progress that emphasized not only justice, solidarity, and equality but also conformity.
As various Communistic views have been addressed to humans’ noblest spirit, the American Communist Party has appealed many idealists, including Richard Wright. As a black male, Wright was particularly concerned with the convergence of confronting racist views with Communism. Finally, the American Communist Party observed the same inner controversies and disagreements that bothered other American political organizations. Increasingly authoritarian position of the Party has truly disappointed sensitive thinkers like Richard Wright, who had joined Communists with firm expectations for a brighter and greater future.
Richard Wright is the narrator, protagonist and leader of the memoir Black Boy. He is compassionate, timid, modest, and enormously intelligent person. As a passive and aggressive young boy, Richard became melodramatic. Growing up in offensive and abusive family environment in the racially divided and violent American South, Wright has found his salvation in thinking, reading, and writing. Richard grew up feeling unsafe about his incapacity to meet people’s expectations; in particular, his family wishes to accept religion. Although he has remained isolated from his peers and environment, Richard has come to accept himself at the autobiography’s end. The observational power and ability of Richard Wright helped to demonstrate the psychological struggle facing black Americans in the autobiography Black Boy.
The most remarkable feature of Richard Wright was a great belief in own capacities and worth. This belief has frequently rendered him stubborn, willful, and disrespectful of authorities, putting him in disparity with his family and those who expected him to accept a degraded position in society. Since almost everybody in Wright’s life supported such a view, Richard has found himself punished for nonconformity of emotional isolation and physical violence. Although Richard has indicated features of inferiority, insecurity, and disgrace around some white people, his self- confidence was truly invulnerable. Richard’s abusive childhood served to assure himself of own rights to prosper and be successful in the world. Moreover, Richard’s isolating and difficult experiences fueled his intensely powerful ideas, his passion of reading and writing, and his desire to make his life meaningful and expressive through writing about his surroundings.
Wright has presented himself in various shades throughout the memoir Black Boy. As a young boy, Richard was unable to believe his openly accepted notions like intellectual curiosity, blackness, and lack of religion would make him inherently flawed. Rather, the readers would find a determined character that supposes to live following own principles and accept the consequences. Such a strong-willed nature has contrasted with Richard’s low social status, powerless social position that appeared with being poor and black man.
Racism as the important issue among individuals is a familiar theme in literature. However, the autobiography Black Boy investigates racism not only as the odious conviction held by odious humans but also as the insidious challenge of the whole society. Richard Wright has portrayed characters such as Pease and Olin as the evil individuals, but also as the players in a tremendous drama of oppression, hatred, and fear. For Wright, the genuine problem of racism is not simply that the issue exists, but its roots are profound quite in American culture. It is still a doubtful point whether the causes of racism can be eliminated without destroying the culture itself.
The autobiography, Black Boy represents the culmination of the author’s passionate wish to struggle against the racist world around him. Throughout the memoir, Richard Wright has observed the harmful impact of racism not only as it handles relations between white and black humans, but also relationship among black people themselves. Wright (1945) claimed that color hate has defined the place of black people in society as below that of white humans’ life (chapter 15). White people in the novel mainly treat Richard badly due to the color of his skin. Racism was so insidious that it has prevented Richard from normal and ordinary cooperation with white humans who did treat him with respect. Wright grew up among black people who were unwilling or unable to accept his individual personality and talent. The author’s critique of racist challenge in the USA involved a critique of the black social class itself, particularly the black folk community that did not want to educate him properly. The point that Wright has been kept apart from such education became clear when Richard recognized his passion and inspiration of literature at late ages.
Richard Wright has constantly expressed a pursuit to join the society on his own terms rather than be forced in the category the society wants him to join. In this consideration, Richard used to struggle against a prevailing white culture, both in the North and South, and even against own black culture. Neither black nor white culture knew how to affect a prominent, self-respecting, and strong-willed black male. Richard has experienced own way. Neither option satisfies him, so he invents his own middle course.
Despite own flaws and errors, Richard remains intensely engaged with humanity, both in a global sense and in the context of his concern for individuals he met during his journey. Richard Wright has overcome isolating, negative, and weakening aspects of his environment. Wright was the outsider who felt no significant connection to other people, but, however, he cared for them. Richard’s individual features did not exist in a perfect harmony. At certain points, one trait will appear as prevailing, just to give a way to other traits at other times. Since the character of Richard Wright has convincingly contained all the traits, even in imbalance, the author had a self-contradictory attractiveness that still exceeds ordinary biographical facts of his life.