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Richard Wright’s Hunger: Analysis Of Black Boy

1154 words - 5 pages

Desires of all types plague the human mind constantly. Certain desires are obvious and necessary, such as food and water. Others are more unique to humanity, such as education, respect, and love. When something or someone seems to stand in the way of an important yearning, desire becomes hunger. Over the course of world history, minorities have been repeatedly denied some of their most basic desires. An example would be the treatment of African-Americans in the United States until the later twentieth century. In Black Boy, Richard Wright characterizes his own multi-faceted hunger that drove his life in rebellion throughout the novel.
Richard’s hunger first manifested itself in the physical sense, a condition that would dominate and challenge his young life. Hunger motivated the majority of his important decisions, so as an author he choose to include many of these instances and often explicitly included the word as well. When Richard was six, his father abandoned the family, taking with him any security that they had. “Hunger stole upon me so slowly that at first I was not aware of what hunger really meant” (Wright 14). His hunger quickly became a focal point of his life, as a critic remarked, “Confronting hunger becomes all encompassing because it is physical as well as emotional… he strives to understand why he must starve while others are fed…. These events… influence Richard’s development and firmly establish the questioning tone of the text” (Camp). Camp suggests that Wright’s early use of hunger is meant to color a reader’s viewpoint from the beginning to the end. Richard began to go hungry at an impressionable age, but he turned a negative situation into a strong positive motivator. Hunger due to poverty actually lead Richard to become more self-reliant than others of his age. He had more responsibilities and so naturally took a closer look at the circumstances that led to his condition. His resolve to rise above his broken beginnings persisted while many other black people essentially ceded power to the dominant white population. He was never afraid to question what shaped his life, despite opposition, and he started with his lack of sustenance. Physical hunger was a critical factor in Wright’s existence that underscored his actions and gave weight to Black Boy.
The next form of hunger that Richard encountered was one for literature which seemed to give him a release from the suffocating reality of his surroundings. His appetite for literature became a defining characteristic as the novel progressed. Though her effort was short-lived, a boarder at his Grandma’s house, Ella, gave him his first taste of reading. “As her words fell upon my new ears, I endowed them with a reality that welled up from somewhere within me…. My sense of life deepened…. The sensations the story aroused in me were never to leave me” (Wright 39). In light of Richard’s continued pursuit for knowledge critic Dykema-VanderArk reflects that,...

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