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Free Study Guide-Black Boy by Richard Wright-Free Online Book Notes
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS (continued)

Mrs. Wright

Mrs. Wright is Richardís pillar of strength and source of inspiration. Richard observes her undergoing struggle and facing agonies, in order to bring them up. Deserted by her husband and burdened with two children, she has a tough time keeping her house in order. She takes up a job as a cook and leaves Richard behind to take care of the house. She is the one who makes him stand on his legs and face his opponents daringly, at the mere age of six. Richard thus learns to cope with his adversaries and survive in a harsh world.

Mrs. Wright is kind and good-hearted but she is a disciplinarian. She listens to the childrenís talk and answers their questions patiently. She works hard to give them two square meals a day and school education. However, when they err, she punishes them and makes them understand the values of life. At the age of four, after Richard sets the house on fire, she whips him for causing tension to every one. At Jackson, after Richard shocks granny by using foul language, Mrs. Wright takes him to task. After attending the first day at school, when Richard tries to show off his knowledge by writing dirty four letter words on the glass windows of his neighbors, she makes him wipe all the windows in the night. After these incidents, Richard learns not to use words without understanding their meaning. At Memphis, when Richard kills an innocent cat, Mrs. Wright makes him bury the poor animal. She wants him to realize his mistake and repent for having caused harm to an innocent little creature.

Mrs. Wright is a sensible woman and an understanding mother. After her husband deserts her, she does not moan her plight or go into depression. Instead, she takes her husband to the court to claim their maintenance. However, when she gets nothing from him, she decides to join her sister in Arkansas to start a new life. Even here, security is snatched away from her after her brother- in-law is killed, but she does not lose hope. Along with her sister, she works as a cook in a White American house. When her sister leaves home with her lover, she is once again left to fend for herself. She takes up jobs at different places to support her family.


This continues till she falls ill. Laid in bed after a stroke of paralysis, she is unable to go out to work and earn money. However, she encourages Richard to go to a normal school as against the wish of granny. She also accepts Richardís decision to work on Saturdays, to earn for his school education. When Richard expresses a desire to go the north to pursue his ambition, she gives him her consent. Like a good mother, she induces him to do his best but does not restrict his freedom or creativity.

Mrs. Wright is God-fearing but not a religious fanatic. She becomes a member of the Methodist church and attends the Sunday Masses. She persuades Richard to accompany her. And when the priest blackmails her emotionally, she succumbs to his tactics and requests Richard to get baptized. As a woman weak in body and pure in mind, she wants her son to be blessed by God in order to achieve success in life.

Mrs. Wright is thus a positive force in molding her sonís personality. Her sufferings ennoble him and instill moral strength in him. Her discipline teaches him to lead an ordered life. Her goodness makes him follow the path of righteousness. Her love urges him to withstand the pressures of life and reach out to his goal.

Granny

If Mrs. Wright influences Richard positively, Mrs. Wilson or Granny casts a negative influence on the boy. Granny is the virtual head of the family at Jackson, even though Grandpa is alive and residing in the same house. She dominates the house with her authority and religious discipline. Her religious eccentricity flaws her good nature.

Otherwise, she is a good mother to her children, as she provides them succor whenever they are in need of it. However, her dedication to God makes her blind to the feelings and emotions of other human beings. She takes care of Mrs. Wright after she falls ill and allows her to stay with her but she imposes her rigid pattern of life on her and her children. As a member of the Seventh Adventist Church, she attends the Church service regularly and forces the other members of her family to do so. At home, after regular intervals of time, she insists on offering prayers. Along with Aunt Cleo, she persuades Richard to join the Religious school. In the process, she retards Richardís growth as an individual and an intelligent being. Also, heavy doses of religion and prayer create a feeling of hatred for them in the boy.

In her fanaticism, Granny forgets about the desires and longings of a young boy like Richard. In order to lead an austere life, she eats mush and gravy and serves it to others. Thus, Richardís stomach always remains empty and he craves for more food. He desires to have food outside and in school. After Richard leaves the religious school and shows little interest in offering prayers, she calls him a sinner. She does not appreciate his reading anything other than religious books. Thus, when he publishes his story, "The Voodoo of Hellís Half-Acre," she condemns him for writing such a devilish story. She does not approve of his working on Saturdays because it is considered to be a rest day. She does not understand that Richard needs to work on that day in order to earn money for his school education. Unwittingly, she places hurdles on Richardís path of progress and curbs his creativity. However, Richard remains unaffected by her criticism and escapes out of her shadows, by leaving for the north.

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