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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Richard grows taller and bigger and seeks the company of big boys. Usually, the conversation among the friends is racial discrimination. All their anger against the whites gets released through impersonation and curses. This is how they spend their free time. However, days of freedom for Richard end with the illness of his mother. He is forced to take up odd jobs to keep the home fires burning. They also have to shift residence because of their inability to pay rent. And one day, his mother falls seriously ill. Richard is unable to understand what is wrong with his mother and so he calls the neighbors. The doctor finally arrives and diagnoses that his mother has got a paralytic stroke. Richard feels helpless and calls granny to look after his mother. Soon, his aunts and uncles arrive to attend to the situation. After they reach Jackson, one day, they tell Richard that it will be difficult for one person to take the responsibility of Mrs. Wright and her two children. Aunt Maggie volunteers to take Leon with her to Detroit, while Richard decides to go with Uncle Clark to Greenwood as it is close to Jackson.
At Greenwood however, he feels isolated. Both his uncle and aunt treat him like an adult and deprive him of motherly love. His needs are taken care of and he is sent to school. But he also has to work hard and help his aunt. At school, he wins over his antagonists and asserts his identity. However, at home, he feels alienated. To add to his discomfort, his neighbor frightens him by mentioning his dead son who had used to sleep on the bed that Richard now sleeps on. Fears of ghost and death start haunting Richard. He requests his uncle to let him sleep on the sofa in the front room. When his request is turned down repeatedly, he asks his uncle to send him back home. Thus, he returns to Jackson and to his mother. When his motherís condition worsens, she is taken to Clarksdale for an operation. On returning home, she remains sick in bed. The family resources start dwindling and insecurity once again starts haunting Richard. However, the struggles of life make him mature than normal than a boy of his age.
As Richard grows older, he becomes conscious of his environment and the racial prejudice existing in his surroundings. In the company of boys older to him, he learns to express his animosity towards the Whites. He joins the Black boys to challenge the White boys when the latter hurl abuses at them. In the process, he often gets into fights and gets hurt, but it does not stop him from continuing the practice. The portrayal of the games that the children play or the activities that they indulge in serves a definite purpose. Through these, Wright has shown the readers how a particular idea or tradition is carried forward by the newer, younger generation. The views that these young boys have about the Whites or even about themselves is something that they have learned from their elders, specially their parents.
Richard is forced into religion much against his wish. His mother persuades him to accompany her to the church on Sundays. Sermons tire him but the biblical stories and hymns interest him. He tries to derive his own meanings from them.
Richardís ordered life comes to an end, after his motherís illness. All this while, he was free to enjoy life, as his mother worked outside to support them. Now, he is forced to take up employment to support his family. Matters come to a head, when his mother gets a paralytic stroke. Richard finds himself helpless to tackle the situation. His granny takes the responsibility of looking after his mother, while Richard and Leon are taken away by Uncle Clark and Aunt Maggie respectively. The whole family therefore comes together at this time of crisis. This shows that because of the fear that always dominates over the life of the Blacks, they have learned to survive and support one another in times of trouble. At Greenwood, Richard lives in an alien world devoid of love and understanding. He thus makes his escape from such a world. At Jackson, he witnesses his motherís suffering. The harsh realities of life make him bitter but it also makes him ennobled. As he recollects, "At the age of twelve, I had an attitude towards life that was to endure, that was to make me seek those areas of living that would keep it alive, that was to make me skeptical of everything while seeking every thing, tolerant of all and yet critical." Richard becomes a detached onlooker of life. Pain makes him probe into the essence of life and find a meaning to it. He reads psychology, fiction and art in order to understand the human mind. It provokes the artist within him to express his feelings.