"The Struggle for Individuality"

















Richard Wright was a young man of extreme intelligence and openness to speak his mind. Richard’s
writings in "Black Boy" are a collection of his alienation, not only from white society, but from his own
people. In Richard’s boyhood there was virtually no chance for a personality such as his to develop freely.
Everything conspired against personal freedom, not only the white social structure, but the black as well.
Richard was treated brutally and tyrannically at home in order to prevent his being treated the same way or
worse outside of home and especially in the white society. His family tried to enforce a code of conduct
on him, so when in the presence of whites he would not be harmed. The family was trying to convey to
Richard that black children must never strive to be more than black children; if they did, not only would
they suffer a terrible fate by the white people, but their families would as well. This was a method of
limiting one’s individuality, fortunate!
for Richard he overcame and aspired to become a great writer.
Richard’s struggle for freedom and individuality started at a young age with the brutality from his family
and the black society. We see this very early when Richard is beaten, almost to death, by his mother and
father for setting the house on fire. On could argue that the beaten was justified, but the extreme method of
this beaten can not be justified. It appears that Richard was more afraid of the punishment he would
receive from his family, rather then the punishment he would receive from the white people. He shows this
when he is fighting with white boys on his way to the grocery store and his mother keeps sending him back
to purchase the groceries. "I have the choice of being beaten at home or away from home" (p20) He chose
to fight the white boy’s rather then get beaten by his mother, this helped build his individuality. This
brutality within the family continued with other members of his family after his mother became ill. This
was to ensure that he learn the c!
ode of conduct that he should follow towards white people. Richard’s greatest struggles were with Granny
and Aunt Addie, as they tried to control his individuality. Richard attends the Seventh-Day Adventist
school taught by his Aunt Addie and rebels against its strict rules. While in school he was faulted and
punished by his Aunt Addie for throwing walnut shells on the floor, which he had not done. Richard stood
by his street gang code of not telling on someone for faults they committed, because of this he was
punished again. Richard did not excel in school while his Aunt was his teacher. Once Richard transfers to
the public Jim Hill School, he excels academically and gains friends. Richard was finally given up as a lost
cause by his family; they expect nothing of him anymore, so he was free to do as he chooses. Richard now
is no longer one who struggles against his family in order to win their approval, so he turns his rebellion to
the outside.
Richard growing awareness of a world outside his own, starts with inquires of his mother on the subject of
white people. Richard feels that he may be late in learning to sense white people because he never really
thought of them, they just existed. Also, the fact that "…tardiness in learning to sense white people as
white people came from the fact that many of my relatives were ‘white’ -- looking people" (p27) His
mother tries to protect him from seeing his condition for what it is. Richard’s mothers and family’s efforts
to make him comply with the standards set by a white society succeed only insofar as Richard could take
care of himself. They failed, however, in keeping him unconscious of his own individuality. His inquires
continue of black and white people. Richard’s openness of asking questions and making statements to
white’s lead to a view of the brutality and rejection of blacks by whites. This restricted the ability of the
Negro to strive for individuality.
Richard’s home and school life have prepared him,