In Richard Wright's Black Boy, what is the meaning or significance of this passage:

Somewhere in the dead of the southern night my life had switched onto the wrong track,and without my knowing it, the locomotive of my heart was rushing down a dangerously steep slope, heading for collision, heedless of the warning red lights that blinked all about me, the sirens and bells and the screams that filled the air.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After having lived an impoverished life, physically, socially, and psychologically, in his fifteenth year, Richard becomes profoundly aware of the limitations of any opportunity to improve his life. Because he constantly suffers from hunger, both physical and spiritual, he seeks work and self-expression. He first gets a position as a chore boy for a white family. On the first day he chops wood for the stove, lugs in "scuttles of coal for the grates," waits on the tables, and does the dishes. Then, he sweeps the front sidewalk and rushes to the store for the woman. When an exhausted Richard returns, the woman tells him his breakfast is on the table. Richard has seen that the family has had eggs, bacon, and coffee, but he is given stale bread that is edged with green mold. 

When asked why he hasn't eaten, Richard lies, "I'm not hungry." The woman chastises him for wasting good molasses and says she will put it up for his supper; then she feels the bread and throws it away, knowing it is...

(The entire section contains 612 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team