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Free Study Guide-Black Boy by Richard Wright-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 20

Summary

Richard is transferred to the Federal Writer’s Project where he is asked to write travel guides. In the course of his research, he comes into contact with Communist writers but they ignore him. After a few months, Richard is promoted to the post of a Supervisor. His Communist colleagues envy him and try to spoil his name by spreading rumors about him. They however fail in their attempt. One day, he watches his old comrades walking in procession, asking for higher wages for Works Progress Administration Artists and Writers. As soon as they see him, they curse him and accuse him of being a Trotskyite. Richard is disgusted by their attitude. He decides to clear his reputation with the head of the local Communist party. However, when he goes to meet him, he is not given an appointment and his secretary dismisses him off. Richard feels defeated.

Richard gets elected as the Shop Chairman of the Union. As May Day 1936 approaches, the Union plans to join the public procession. On the appointed day, Richard arrives on the specified spot to join his members. However, he does not find anyone. He learns that they have marched away from the spot, fifteen minutes earlier. Unsure of his move, he turns round to meet his old friend from the Communist party of the South Side section. The worker calls him to join their line. As Richard stands talking to his friend, he is ordered to get out of the line by the White Communist leader of the district, Cy Perry. Richard argues with him and tries to assert his right to join the line but there is no use.


When Richard refuses to move out, the leader asks his followers to throw him out. Richard finds himself headlong on the road, but saves himself from getting hurt. He feels humiliated and defeated specially because his black friends did not do anything to stop their leader from assaulting him. As he recovers from his shock, he contemplates on the behavior of the Communists and even feels sorry for them. He feels the need to talk to a friend but stays at home instead. Sitting in the dark, he broods over the plight of his countrymen, both the Blacks and the Whites. He tries to put down his thoughts on paper but his agitated mind restricts him from doing so. However, he is hopeful that in the future he will be able to use his words as weapons to fight against injustice.

Notes

This concluding chapter justifies the title "The Horror and the Glory" of Part Two. Richard experiences horror in the hands of the Communists. As the Communist party disillusions him, he cut off his connections with them. This action infuriates the party workers and leaders, as they take this as a humiliation. They retaliate and take revenge on him. First they attack him verbally. When he remains unaffected by their criticisms, they try to jeopardize his career. After their attempt fails, they shout slogans against him in public. And finally, they use violence against him and humiliate him in public. The Communists therefore try to break Richard, both physically and mentally. Richard feels dejected and defeated but does not lose hope.

The reign of terror under the Communists hardens his determination to use his words as weapons to fight against injustice. He wants to expose the ills of society and correct it if possible. He believes that he will feel rewarded, even if he is successful in reaching out to a few people. And this will be his glory. The concluding words of the chapter are haunting. "I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human." These poignant words of Richard convey the injured feelings of a sensitive heart. Richard longs to reach out to the world through his writings. He desires to create awareness in the people about the rights of Negroes, as individuals, who possess a human heart.

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