Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
American Hunger, the second part of Richard Wright’s autobiography, focuses on his life in Chicago, Illinois, from 1927 to 1937. The book was written in 1944. The Northern experience recurs as a new slave narrative. It demonstrates how modern African Americans were deceived. Wright opens the text in 1927, when nineteen-year-old Richard, his alter ego, arrives in Chicago with his Aunt Maggie. Wright juxtaposes the terms “strange” and “familiar” to express Richard’s dismay at seeing African Americans openly consort with whites in public facilities. He learns quickly that appearances are deceptive.
Wright employs literary naturalism to illustrate racial and environmental barriers erected by whites to imprison African Americans in modern slavery. Richard discovers that migrants have traded Southern plantations for urban ghettos. They live in the black belt of Chicago and remain racially and economically disfranchised. Richard’s economic status soon imitates that of his impoverished Southern experience. Richard earns low wages at menial jobs during the following six years. The intermittent checks from his postal service job or the relief agency barely sustain Richard’s family.
Consistent with Black Boy, Richard becomes the outsider, in conflict with his family, community, and professional affiliations. A major source of conflict is his independent thinking. His attempts at writing cause alarm to his Aunt Maggie,...
(The entire section is 374 words.)
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