Richard Wright – Black Boy

Lately I have read a book called ‘Black Boy’. So I thought to write a few things about what I understood. The book is about the plight of Richard Wright from South(Mississippi State) to North(Chicago) and his encounters, experiences with different people, how his understanding about the Negroes and White People widened, increased over time and his process of becoming a writer. The story is set around 1900-1950. It was a time period during which Americans treated blacks/colored people very badly. Yes slavery was abolished long back, equal opportunity was there theoretically, but practically they were denied jobs, respect, food, education and basic human dignity given to fellow beings. They were treated like animals. With life liken that their thoughts were mostly concerned about survival, shifting from one petty job to another. Starvation and being hungry were quite a part of their lives. Some of the major themes are

Racial Attitudes

Black and colored people were treated badly because of their color. They were denied jobs, education, freedom to express/speech. Most of them were peasants/illiterate people who do physical jobs mostly.They were so subjected, oppressed and denied opportunities I couldn’t help but sympathize with the author for his sufferings. One only has to read the book to understand the extent of their subjugation and oppression.The author clearly depicts the pain, sufferings the Negroes had to go to get food, money.It kind of feels so defeatist. And the racial attitude towards black/colored is not shifted evenly.In the south it is too much, but in the north it is very less. I think it is because of industrialization and education which puts North with lesser racial attitude.

Freedom of Expression

The writer had to face too many problems when he tries to read & educate himself to understand the world. But people consider reading/ writing as something not good.It should be limited and restricted. The reason being most of them practically don’t find any practical reason in writing/reading. They are too much occupied with survival, politics, tactics and religion. It seems like most of people didn’t put much effort into reading to expand their understanding of the world. We could see clearly during his stay with the Communist party and the difficulties he had to undergo each time in convincing the the Negroes of what actually their lives meant, what exactly is Communism. Finally at the end the author gives up.


It is clear from the start, that writer doesn’t believe in the God. He realizes that suffering has nothing to do with God, and it limits the people in doing some things which actually might help people or themselves. He feels so much grounded by religion during his stay with his grand-mother who is a religion fanatic. People are dumbly following the rules/rituals/obligations without realizing it’s real intentions.They believe their suffering is because of their sins.


During the Great Depression time author joins the communist party, for he believes it can unite people, set them into action. But soon he realizes that members of the party doesn’t actually have any idea about its principles, the deeper understanding required to unite the people. What he realizes is that they are dumb heads trying desperately to do something without quite objective in mind. He realizes that Communism can change the world only when people have a real understanding of it really means. Because of this misunderstandings , he faces quite a lot of issues with members of the party, driving him mad sometimes.
 There are also many qualities the story touches upon like fear, isolation, loneliness, artistic nature, Love, Hate, intolerance, books, leaders, hunger for power or to express, American culture, urban cities, sex, suffering, hungry, starvation, Stalin, Trotsky, and Fanatics.
I was wondering at the end how he could weave up all these themes and makes such compelling novel. Upon reading you get a new sense of the world. I will write another post describing his writing style and some questions which popped up in my mind while reading..

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