What happens to Richard after he reads H.L. Mencken?Black Boy by Richard Wright

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Richard reads an editorial in a newspaper that attacks Henry Louis Mencken, he is curious to learn why the paper would attack a white man.  He asks a co-worker, an Irish Catholic named Falk if he can borrow his library card; Falk lends it, but cautions Richard to be careful.  Forging a note supposedly from Falk, Richard requests some books by Mencken.  Mencken's bold style and verbal jousting excite Richard's old interest in reading.  In addition, Mencken wrote satiric articles attacking ignorance, intolerance, fraudulence, and fundamentalist Christianity--topics with which Richard was quite familiar.  Mencken also was a student of American English and criticized American life and culture.

In Chapter 13 after he finishes Mencken's A Book of Prefaces,Richard writes, I concluded the book with the conviction that I had somehow overlooked something terribly important in life. I had once tried to write, had once reveled in feeling had let my crude imagination roam, but the impulse to dream had been slowly beaten out of me by experience.  Now it surged up again, and I hungered for books, new ways of seeing and feeling.

Richard's experience of reading H. L. Mencken is a turning point for Richard as he awakens many of his childhood feelings.  After this experience, Richard acquires a strong desire to write, and his life becomes much more focused.


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