Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author's main point in Black Boy is the redemptive power of art. For example, when a schoolteacher is boarding with Richard's family and reads him Bluebeard (a novel), Richard's world is forever changed. Wright writes:

"I ceased to see the porch, the sunshine, her face, everything. As her words fell upon my new ears, I endowed them with a reality that welled up somewhere within me.... As she spoke, reality changed, the look of things altered, and the world become peopled with magical presences" (page 44).

Literature causes Richard's world to change forever, and it is almost as if he is reborn when the schoolteacher reads aloud to him. Richard's childhood world is scarred by poverty, racism, hunger, and misunderstanding. Only the world of art and literature can feed his desire for a better world--a world he doesn't find in the racist South or the communist groups of the North. Even as a child, Richard knows that when he gets older, "I would buy all the novels there were and read them to feed that thirst for violence that was in me, for intrigue, for plotting, for secrecy, for bloody murders" (page 45). Only literature can sate Richard's desire to know more of the world and to experience more of the world than what he can experience as a poor African American child in the South.

Early in the story, Richard, as a four-year-old, is obsessed with fire, "fascinated with the quivering coals" (page 4). Richard is fixated by the fire, which is symbolic of the great life and vitality inside of him that cause him dissatisfaction in the South, where he must contend with racism, poverty, and his family's sense of religiosity (which he does not share). In the North, he is not satisfied by a life of routine labor or by the promises of the communist party. 

In the end, Richard believes that for white people to understand his life, it "would have meant nothing short of a revolution in theirs" (page 310). He seeks to provide white people with "the inclusion in their personalities of knowledge of lives such as I lived and suffered" (page 310). It is through writing that Richard seeks to provide this revolution and to provide redemption and satisfaction for himself.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question