How did Richard kill the kitten in "Black Boy" by Richard Wright?

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jennifer-taubenheim eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard and his brother helped a little kitten that they found in their backyard and this made their father angry. The kitten was making too much noise, and their father told Richard to, “Kill that damn thing!” (page 11). Richard thought about what his father had said. He knew that his dad did not literally mean that he wanted him to kill the kitten, but that is what Richard decided to do. He said, “my deep hatred of him urged me toward a literal acceptance of his word” (pg 11). So Richard went outside and hung the kitten until it was dead. When he was asked why he did this, Richard responded that his father had told him to. Richards mother tells Richard to say a prayer and she has him bury the kitten. She tries to teach him that all life is important, even small lives. She does this by having him repeat the prayer after her, saying "spare my poor life, even though I did not spare the life of the kitten...And while I sleep tonight, do not snatch the breath of life from me..."(pg 14).

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