The book “Black Boy” is actually a kind of memoir by the author Richard Wright who is an American author. This book was first published in the year 1945 and throughout the book, the author talks about the way he was brought up. While talking about his journey in living on a white land, he very artistically brings to light the kind of racism that existed within that society. It is this honest representation of racism that helped the book in gaining immense popularity in the United States. The book was also caught up in a lot of controversy for the same reason. The entire novel mainly goes around three themes which would be discussed in detail in the following sections of the paper help. The themes include racism and its effects, the aspect of an individual against an entire society, and finally, the power that art beholds.
Racism is not a very unique topic when it comes to literature as a number of authors have tried to show how racism is an odious concept that has been carried forward from generation to generation. Richard Wright through his literary piece not only shares the same idea and talks about how this unpleasant concept is still held by some people but he also gives the readers an insight into how this problem of racism and racial discrimination is rooted deeply within the society. The author uses characters like Olin and Pease to show the kind of people who hold such notions of racial discrimination but the author also shows how they plan an important role in maintaining racial discrimination and oppression within society. The author believes that the culture in America is interwind with the concept of racism. They are so deeply connected that it might actually be difficult to separate them from one another. Thus, in order to eliminate racism altogether, the American culture might have to be dropped completely and a new inclusive culture might be needed to form. The author shows how racial discrimination is not a biological concept but they are a title given by society. They are ways to mark an entire section of people in order to oppress them. The author also notes how the white people were constantly given all the privileges and they were also among the privileged section of the society. The author notes how the white people direct their anger at the black people for no reason except for their blackness. Black people are subjected to all kinds of injustice. They are killed by the white people at the slightest suspicion and even without properly searching for the truth like Ned is killed on the basis of a suspicion that he slept with a white female. The kind of racism differs from place to places like North and South. The author also shed light on the fact that while some of the people like himself are born in a white land and have a mixed race, they are still referred to as "Negro”. The reason being the fact that the white people only look at the author with respect to skin colour. While the South has the more prominent racial distinction, in the North the author sees how the racial distinction works in a subtle manner. The author shows how he and his people are viewed on the basis of their coloured skin.
The next theme is that of the individual and society. The book chronicles the life of the author and his search for his own path. He is seen to be constantly struggling in the South to try and find a normal life for himself. The society that he lives in never permits him of the same as he as well as the readers are constantly reminded of the fact that he does not belong there. The author who stays in the Southern parts saw how all the black people were viewed through the same lens. They grouped all the black people as one and by doing that they wiped out the individuality of the black people. They saw all the black people as subordinates and strongly held the notion that every black person was supposed to serve them. The white people completely denied the independent existence of the black people. There are a number of instances where the white people automatically assumed that the author is capable of lying, stealing and even killing a person. The white saw the black people as the community that is supposed to be subjected to servitude. An important aspect when it comes to racism highlighted by the author is the way it affects the way black people communicate with one another. The author notes how he had a very difficult time trying to communicate with his black peers as they constantly pushed the author to abide by Christianist thinking and teaching. The society around him forced him to kneel before the white supremacy and do as they pleased. The author gets even more motivated to move out of his society but when he reaches Chicago, he understands how all the writers, politicians and activists with black skin were entirely wrong about the place. The author talks about how the aspect of racism and white control is much more subtle in Chicago. The white actually has control over all the aspects of society. They have the ultimate say in everything even the Communist Party or John Reed Club. They have all been altered based on white supremacy and none of them seems to function independently. The author finds his voice through his work which is the only possible way he could present his feelings without them being tweaked by the white external forces. This is why the author goes back to studying and ultimately making his own career all by himself. The author does not want to blend in with society at the cost of losing his own voice. He joins the society on his own free will and on his own terms.
The aspect of art in the “Black Boy” is presented through the ability to read and write. The author seems to find solace in reading and writing and it is this ability that opens an entirely new world for him. The author enjoys reading the great ideas by different people but instead of imitating them, he actually writes literary pieces by himself. A number of people do not really understand this aspect of creating one’s own work and often regards the author’s work as a “devil’s work”. However, his ability to create his own stories gives the author a meaning to live and strive every day. It is because of this urge to read his own remarks which keeps him from getting a job as a teacher but it only adds up to his confidence as an author. The author manages to get access to writers like H.L. Mencken which gives him words to express his struggle as a black person. The author is introduced to concepts like capitalism, religious struggles and communism which were mostly the words of the West. The author educated himself on these concepts further. The ability to create gives the author the ability to bear with his poverty status on one hand and on the other hand, it actually helps him in functioning as a sane person within a society that discriminates against people passed on their skin colour. It is through different literary pieces that he is able to understand the society around him and the author actually seems to be excited about every day and views his life as a text. The idea of life as presented by the author in the novel seems to reflect how the power of creativity can be a form of redemption.
It can be concluded after the above discussion that the book by Richard Wright is more about his journey and how he learnt and grew within a society that denied the very existence of black individuality. The author through this piece talks about how racism is a part of the white culture that views every black person as a possible thief or worse, a murderer. The author shows how society presses on the black people to be in line with Christianity and serve the white people. Even after being born on a white land, the black people are never really accepted and are constantly reminded of their skin colour. The author talks about how the aspect of racism is differently represented in the North and the South. The southern part is more subtle as compared to the North but the whites always have the ultimate say in everything. The author finds his voice and power in art and the ability to create. It is this ability to create which gives the author a meaning and objective to work for. While this acts as a hurdle for him in trying to attain a teacher's job but as an author, it helps him a lot. It is an art that makes his life and poverty bearable.
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