In Black Boy, what 3 things cause Richard to feel isolated? Does Uncle Tom like Richard? What opportunity awaits him after 9th grade?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard is isolated by a number of things.  The most obvious is racial prejudice.  The story takes place in the Jim Crow South, where prejudice towards blacks is an integral part of life.  Although he has witnessed many instances of white people oppressing blacks, and has an uncle who was killed by jealous whites because of his prosperous business, Richard does not truly understand the nature of prejudice until as a young adult he borrows a white man's library card, and must label himself a "nigger" and pretend to be illiterate in order to gain access to library privileges.  Richard has a love for reading and words, which exposes him to criticism and ridicule.  He also is a deep and perceptive thinker, a quality which also sets him apart.

Uncle Tom does not like Richard.  Uncle Tom is an assimilationist who does whatever he needs to to get along with white society.  He thinks Richard is a "fool" because he does not conform in the same manner.

Richard is an exemplary student in school, and valedictorian of his class, and because of this, he has a chance to become a teacher in the city school system when he completes the ninth grade.  His opportunity is lost, however, when he refuses to read a prepared speech for his graduation address, insisting on using his own.  To Richard, maintaining his integrity by being true to himself is more important than accepting the condescending roles offered him by white society.

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