In his article, “The Role of Violence in the Works of Wright and Fanon,” Patrick Wilmot writes that Wright and Fanon are both criticized and defended by many for the violence that exists in their work. He states that the people that criticize them are “wrong” and the defenders are “ignorant” because they fail to comprehend that the violence described in their work is not something that either writer created, instead it’s the violence that made up the society in which they had to grow up and survive. According to Wilmot, Write was a result of the American South where the violence that existed during the slave days still continued to exist in the form of Jim Crow Laws. Write had to be taught not to act as an equal because doing so would be a crime to those in “rule.” In Black Boy, Wright shared how his relatives would beat him into abolishing his humanity so that he wouldn’t attract the attention of lynch mobs.
Racism in the North vs. Racism in the South: Race appears to be more nuanced in the North than in the South and this can be seen as soon as Richard reaches Chicago with his Aunt Maggie (262). “The streetcar came. Aunt Maggie motioned for me to get on and pushed me towards a seat in which a white man sat looking blankly out the window (262). “I did not exist for him…” (262) “It would have been illegal for me to sit beside him in the part of the South where I had come from” (262). Another example of the race being more nuanced in the North is when he gets a job as dishwater at a restaurant (270). One morning as Richard was making coffee one of the white waitresses squeezed against him to get a cup of coffee and said “Pardon me, Richard” to which he responds, “oh that’s all right” (270). “But I was aware that she was a white girl and that her body was closely pressed against mine, an incident that had never happened before in my whole life, an incident charged with the memory of dread. But she was not conscious of my blackness or of what her actions would have meant in the south (270). “Working against time, I would wet five steps, sprinkle soap powder, then a white doctor or a nurse would come and, instead of avoiding the soppy steps, walk on them and track the dirty water onto the steps I had already cleaned (307).
Discussion Question:Why do you think Richard isn’t completely content with being North even though they treat him much better than he was treated in the South?
Morals: He lied to the Hoffman’s by saying that he did not showing up to work because he had to bury his mother, they don’t believe him and Mr. Hoffman tells Richard that he’s disappointed in him (268). “Working with them from day to day and knowing that they knew I had lied from fear crushed me. I knew that they pitied me and pitied the fear in me. I resolved to quit and risk hunger rather than stay with them (269). After Richard begins working at the restaurant he notices that the Cook spits in the food that she prepares and he wants to inform the boss but is unsure of what her reaction will be to the news (274). “I watched both of them the boss lady and the cook through the doors, praying that the cook would spit again. She did.”
Discussion Question: Why do you think Richard quit his job with the Hoffmans even though they never treated him badly and didn’t fire him knowing that he wasn’t telling the truth?
Loneliness: “In all my life though surrounded by many people I had not a single satisfying sustained relationship with another human being and not having had any, I did not miss it (261). I felt lonely (263).
Discussion Question: Even though he is surrounded by people why do you think Richard isn’t able to form connections with people? Do you think it’s connected to trust issues?
Metaphors: Hunger had long been my companion (261).
Hunger: “Food became scarce at home” (287). “The hunger I thought I had left behind had returned” (287). “When I reached the relief station, I felt I was making a public confession of my hunger (300).
Ethnicities: “The voice jarred me. She’s JewishI thought, remembering with shame the obscenities I used to shout at the Jewish storekeepers in Arkansas” (263). “The cook was an elderly Finnish Woman with a sharp bony face” (270). “….a mannerism which they copied from Polish Communist immigrants who did not know how to pronounce the word” (295).