Midterm Paper The Many Hungers in Black Boy We often find ourselves thinking “Man I am so hungry! ” after going without eating for Just a few hours. If you really think about it we only go without eating for small periods of time. Have we ever really experienced hunger? Real hunger for that matter, hunger like Richard faces in Black Boy. The kind of hunger he experiences are not evident in a society in which we live. Hunger for us is skipping a meal or not finding anything that will please our appetite. This is not even comparable to the days that Richard endures without eating any food.
There is not only physical hunger present in the novel Black Boy, Richard suffers from educational and emotional hunger. Richard longs for conversation and love from others and books to read or some sort of education. Most people often take these for granted but it is the only thing that Richard desires. The hunger in the novel Black Boy by Richard Wright serves as a magnet that pulls us through the story of Richard’s emotional, physical, and intellectual hunger. Richard is faced at a very early age and for most of his life with experiences of hysical hunger, starvation. Hunger stole upon me slowly that at first I was not aware of what hunger really meant. Hunger had always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly” (16). Richard seemed to starve quite often but after his father left he seemed to have constant starvation. Starvation seems to happen a good deal throughout Richard’s life. The type of hunger Richard describes seems to be very painful, a kind of pain that one can’t even imagine. Once again I new hunger, biting hunger, hunger that made my body aimlessly restless, hunger that kept me on edge, that made my temper flare, that made my temper flare, hunger that made hate leap out of my heart like the dart of a serpent’s tongue, hunger that created in me odd cravings” (119). Since hunger is always present in Richard’s lifestyle it seems as if he cannot imagine eating a simple meal every day. To us a simple meal may not seem like such a big deal, but to Richard, and many who suffered like Richard during this time, a simple meal is a miracle.
The weakening and ainful piercing hungers are evidence that where the poverty happened in the Jim Crow South. Richard does not only suffer from physical hunger, he also suffers through emotional hunger throughout the text. He desires attention from people, attention from his family. Richard does not receive much attention at home so that impacts his relationship with others. He does not know how to associate with others. This causes a problem for Richard, when he finally leaves home he does not know how to associate with others. He cannot understand the friendly gestures of those around him.
Nevertheless, I was so starved for association with people that I allowed myself to be seduced by it all, and for a few months I lived the life of an optimist” (178). Richard grew up in a very hostile nome environment which made him not only yearn for food but for love and affection. Another issue that helped contribute to Richard’s emotional hunger is the issue of blacks and whites. Richard does not seem to understand the relationship between the two groups of people. “l wanted to understand these two sets of people who lived side by side and never touched, it seemed, except in violence” (54).
Richard viewed the treatment toward him and the others as wrong, but he dare not go against it. He seemed to have accepted the segregation, but he never let the white people go far in how they treated him. Richard wanted to be able to speak his mind, but he was always told to hush up and he did not want to be treated poorly by the whites. The idea of this was hard for Richard to overcome so he ended up moving to the North. The emotional hunger that Richard faces often led him to loneliness or grief. The biggest hunger the Richard had to suffer through would be his hunger for ducation.
Richard longed for an education. He is a bright boy yet there is no encouragement for him to succeed and learn. There was no encouragement to learn because Negro children of the south did not grow up to be successful. Many of the blacks during that time seemed to settle, settle for ignorance and illiteracy. Richard however, decided to take advantage of the little opportunities that presented themselves. He longed for an education even more after meeting Ella, the school teacher. He stated “… as much afraid of her as he was attracted to her” (38).
The attraction allows him to overcome his fear and ask her about her books, which further awakens the hunger of knowledge. Richard tried to learn and read. “l hungered for the sharp, frightening, breathtaking, almost painful excitement that the story had given me, and I vowed that as soon as I was old enough I would buy all the novels there were and read them to feed that thirst for violence that was in me, for intrigue, for plotting, for secrecy, for bloody murders” (46). Richard loves to read and write. He is very curious and wants to learn as much as he can.
He learns a lot through his experiences rather than a school setting. He gets very excited when he learns new things. “… l had learned to count to a hundred and I was overjoyed…. I would read the newspapers with my mother guiding me and spelling out the words. I soon became a nuisance by asking far too many questions of everybody” (26). The quest for Richard’s learning never seemed to be conquered. Richard suffered through many hungers that we may never experience, we are privileged. His emotional, physical, and educational hunger seem to impact him ignificantly.
Even with all odds stacked against him, Richard prevails and succeeds against all odds. As an adult living in the North, he conquered the obstacles and is stronger than most living around him. Richard survives through these hungers with his great endurance. “Whenever my environment had failed to support or nourish me, I had clutched at books… ” It seemed as if Richard would use his hungers against each other in turn making him a stronger person. Richard endures a lot in the text, much that people in our society today could not survive.
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