Who Is Instilled In Richard Wright's Black Boy?

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Classroom education is only a narrow facet of the multi-media, unstructured learning experience every child takes on during the journey of maturation and coming-of-age. So it is in Richard Wright’s memoir Black Boy, in which a young Richard navigates the unforgiving Jim Crow South to emerge a fully grown, and successful, adult. Richard’s early life is wrought with traumatic situations, events, and encounters as well as often the wrath of his parents and grandmother, whose financial situations cause Richard to move from place to place constantly. This habitual upheaval of Richard’s life - including his father’s abandonment and mother’s development of a debilitating illness - coupled with street interactions and education, fosters an understanding…show more content…
Growing up, his life is imbued with a constant hunger both physical and emotional. His mother is poor and serves as a firsthand example to Richard of, in a nutshell, the expression ‘what can go wrong, will’. Specifically, his mother falls very ill when Richard is still a child, and he is “suddenly thrown emotionally upon [his] own…too frightened to weep” (86). Richard later reflects on his mother’s sickness among other events as causing “a somberness of spirit that [he] was never to lose [to] set upon [him]...that was to make [him] stand apart and look upon excessive joy with suspicion” (100). Even as a child, Richard develops a “conviction that the meaning of living came only when one was struggling to wring a meaning out of meaningless suffering” (100). These ideas stem from Richard’s exposure to his mother’s struggle and situation in life, and are further ingrained into his psyche when his grandmother desperately attempts to convert him. Richard’s explanation for his inability to commit to religion is that “embedded in [him] was a notion of the suffering in life...after having seen [God’s] creatures serve Him at first hand, [he] had had [his] doubts.” (115). Richard’s own suffering accompanied by his experiences of the suffering of those around him teach him that the nature of the world and the eternal state of man is to be in pain, hunger and fear. Although the truth of…show more content…
Richard shows an innate desire for learning, and this sets the stage for another theme: the defiance of expectations. These qualities are native to Richard, but are stimulated by his ability to internalize trauma and important events in his life as lessons. Richard’s future is shaped by these events, large and small, as they influence his outlook and perspective as well as knowledge of and response to situations previously designated ‘adult’. Richard is able to understand consequences, social cues, and cause and effect in more and more nuanced ways as he matures. Although the events that shape his personality and intelligence are not always positive, in fact often manifesting themselves as beatings and vicious fights with family members, they are necessary to Richard’s journey through adolescence in their own way. A twelve-year-old Richard is less apt to unwittingly burn down his household than a four-year-old Richard - and despite the violent nature of the lesson that taught him this, it was taught. Lessons more detailed than this emerge over time as well, lessons about race and racial dynamics, and social situations. Uncle Hoskin’s lynching is a devastating event, but it exposes Richard to the dynamics of the society he lives in and protects him through the loss of innocence. Although Richard learns as much as possible in his infrequent snatches of classroom schooling, his unstructured education is

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