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Black Rebel - Richard Wright's Autobiography

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Black Rebel

Richard Wright's autobiography Black Boy is a vivid expression of the many problems woven into society, and an individual's ability to thrive in spite of them. Wright's life was a support of how the nature of a man can assert him beyond the society in which he is raised. Though the issue of race is ever-present in the United States, Wright's life shows that his individualism is more problematic for him than the color of his skin. Richard Wright hungered for a connection with his family and the world around him, but is never filled as a seemingly inherently racist society cannot comprehend or accept the strong-willed individual he truly is; however, he manages to transcend above all presented archetypes of who he should be, and becomes compassionate towards a society that rejected him.

In the very beginning of his life's story, Richard sets his family home afire. This marks the beginning of how he disrupts his home and family throughout his life because he does not do what they expect or require of him. His mother reacts to this event by beating him into unconsciousness. After this traumatizing event, he does not shrink into the well-behaved boy the painful discipline should have wrought. Instead, he finds meaning in the world around him, saying, "Each event spoke with a cryptic tongue. And the moments of living slowly revealed their coded meanings." Richard does not express regret or sorrow for what he has done, but connects with the world with his senses, rather than as the outsider he was previously. His near-death experience enables him to have full-life experiences with basic things in his life, such as "...the faint, cool kiss of sensuality when dew came...the vague sense of infinite...upon the waters of the Mississippi River...the tantalizing melancholy in the tingling scent of burning hickory." Richard's introduction of his need for identity in spite of what his family expects of him is shown even at this early age of four. Richard expresses that there was "the yearning for identification loosed in me by the sight of a solitary ant carrying a burden upon a mysterious journey" (Wright 8).

In his first individualistic defiance of his society, Richard rejects and rebels against the first ominous and oppressive power in his life: his father. He expresses his fear and timidity around his father, who was the provider and law maker of their house, saying "I could never make noise...I used to lurk timidly..." (Wright 11). Wright's father instills fear in him and his brother. He does not defy his authority directly, but cunningly and brutally. Richard and his brother find a kitten, which meows incessantly, and his father angrily tells him to kill it. Richard reacts rebelliously by literally killing the cat, knowing that his father only told him to do so out of spite. Though his mother beats him for it, his father cannot deny his words, and so marks Richard's first triumph. Twenty-five years later, when Richard sees his father again, he realizes that "though ties of blood made us kin...we were forever strangers..." (Wright 40). He had risen above his father's abandonment. Instead of blaming his failures on the absence of a male presence as other black boys did, he acknowledged that there was nothing but blood that connected him to the man; his father's actions had nothing to do with his individual choices.

It was also Richard's choice to leave the one home in which he could have had the most conservative education and training a black boy could ever receive: the home of his Uncle Clark. Uncle Clark's home is peaceful and quiet compared to the rat-tag street gang life Richard is accustomed to, and he immediately feels outcast. He expresses his feelings towards Uncle Clark and his wife Aunt Jody, saying "I was awkward and self-conscious... I had always felt a certain warmth with my mother...but I felt none here" (Wright 104). Richard chooses to leave in fright of the ghost of a boy who died in his room. Despite his Uncle's attempt to change his mind, he stubbornly replies, "I want to go to my mother" (Wright 114).

Richard's only source of affection is his sickly and paralytic mother. Yet her constant illness was the cause of most of his pain and hunger. If his mother had been well, he would not have to live with his severely religious Granny and Aunt Addie. To Richard, his "mother's suffering grew into a symbol in my mind, gathering to itself all the poverty, the ignorance, the helplessness; the painful, baffling hunger-ridden days and hours..." (Wright 117). He is completely outcast from the home life because of his rejection of his Granny's faith. Granny was a devout Seven-Days Adventist, and ruled the house with a holy fist. Though she required countless prayers and all-night revivals at her church, Richard insists that he does not believe in God or damnation for his rejection of Him. He explains that he has not been bred to believe in God, and his life, even at a young age, prevents any such belief. He says "Perhaps id I had caught my first sense of life from the church I would have been moved to complete personality had been shaped and formed by uncharted conditions of my life" (131). I knew that none of it was true." This rebellion leads him to a deeper hunger for a chance



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