Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series Black Boy Analysis
Black Boy is regarded by many critics as the finest autobiography written by a black American. Admired for its energetic prose and vibrant dialogue, this loosely knit narrative reads like fiction. Much of its strength comes from the resonant associations set up by its images and words. While Black Boy is, on one level, a record of Richard Wright’s own childhood experience, it is also the story of one’s quest for identity and self-affirmation. Its themes are so universal that readers from all backgrounds continue to find it engaging.
The opening chapter sets the tone for the whole book. “Finding himself” one day, at the age of four, confined indoors, Richard stared through the white curtains at a bird wheeling past and shouted. He was promptly silenced. Later, having set the curtains on fire, he hid for fear that he would be found out. Images and themes established in this first chapter persist throughout the autobiography. Richard’s life is torn between his efforts to “find himself” and his fears of being “found out.” Those phrases recur throughout his narrative. Whenever he speaks, he is silenced; when he is commanded to speak, he finds that he cannot. Like the white curtains he set on fire, recurring images of whiteness represent for him his own helplessness: Granny’s white, wrinkled face, the white chalk he cannot use, the white envelopes he cannot move, the ghosts he dreads, the threatening white bags of his...
(The entire section is 1334 words.)
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