Why did Richard start playing with fire in "Black Boy"?
Richard starts to play with fire because he is frustrated and bored. As he is a very young child at this stage, he is not fully aware of the possible dangers of his actions.
Richard is four years old when he starts playing with fire. He is feeling "angry, fretful, and impatient", constantly being scolded by his mother and being told to "keep still". Richard's old Granny is sick and "under the day and night care of a doctor", and young Richard, like any child his age, dreams "of running and playing and shouting", but is reprimanded whenever he makes any noise in the house. "Ach(ing) with boredom", Richard wanders aimlessly around the room "trying to think of something to do".
Nothing in the room seems interesting to Richard, except the fire in the fireplace. As he stands and watches it, "an idea of a new kind of game" takes root in his mind. He decides to take a few straws from a nearby broom and throw them into the fire, just to see what they look like when they burn. Having done that, he starts to wonder "how the long fluffy white curtains would look if (he) (lights) a bunch of straws and (holds) it under them". He tries it, and is shocked when the cloth erupts in flames (Chapter 1).