Explain the dual point of view in "Black Boy."

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kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Richard Wright, a genius author and fantastic storyteller, utilizes a first-person narrator in this novel.  What is unique, though, is that he is able to make his narrator the only real character.  Others are not elaborated upon and Wright presents them in only enough detail in order to give the reader an idea of how they affect him, his actions, etc. He is able to let the reader focus ONLY on the narrator's experiences living in a world filled with racism and hardships.  The reader does not, then, get side-tracked by interest in other characters.  He presents a narrator who is living in the Jim Crow system.  eNotes explains:

This narration demonstrated the principles of living within the Jim Crow system which Wright had previously laid out in "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow," published in Uncle Tom's Children. He represented these ethics through the didactic story of Black Boy with the intention of altering white America's racism. Wright believed that a well-developed protagonist in a successful novel would do more for race relations than any political speech or ruling. Therefore, by the use of his own experience re-enforced by a first person persona, Black Boy exposes the reality of life for the black American realistically but without offering solutions.
ahmadstiller's profile pic

ahmadstiller | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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The two points of view are those of the boy experiencing the situation as a boy and the view of the man looking back with the filter of time and maturity. For example, he says that when his mother told him “catch a kungry” she was trying to make him laugh. But as a child he had thought she was teasing him, but she tried to make him forget about his hunger. His mother was just trying to help. And as an adult he had realized what the mother was trying to do the whole time. Another example of  the two different perspectives the use of diction. For example his mother had told him to defend himself and fight. As an adult he said “I was baffled”. And as a child the author would say to his mother “But I’m scared”.

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