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Black Boy by Richard Wright

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  • Category: Fiction

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According to Richard Wright, “All literature is protest. You cannot name a single literary work that is not protest.” This means that literature is usually based on a reflection on society which is protest. Literature exposes the dark side of society. I agree with this quote because literature is one of the protruding ways to understand how one thinks about an idea. The author’s opinion is a protest against what other may believe. Coherently, in the bildungsroman Black boy by Richard Wright portrays how literature is protest.

In bildungsroman Black Boy by Richard Wright, Richard, the narrator, describes Mencken’s effectiveness as he uses phrases such as “he was using words as a weapon.” This phrase shows how powerful the new experience was for Richard. Richard pondered if he would be ever be able to create something so significant and powerful. Although the thought seemed frightening at first, Richard was able to fight using his words in the end. In addition, the language on the page is so full of disgust that Wright imagines Mencken “…raging demon, slashing with his pen, consumed with hate, denouncing everything American…” (248). This image gives convincing evidence that Mencken was extremely irate with his society and that he is using his works of literature to “fight” against it. His sword is the pen and his words are the blow. Those who are witness to this ‘duel’ are those who are affected by its cuts. Richard is appalled by the fact that one can use words as powerful “weapons” in literature. Richard imagined Mencken “fighting with words” and “using them [words] as one would use a club” (248). Mencken was clearly using words as weapons to express his hatred of society and using literature as protest.

Another example is when Richard has a conversation with the white men who work at his job before he leaves for Chicago. He says, “I wanted to tell him that I was going north precisely to change, but I did not. ‘I’ll be the same,’ I said, trying to indicate that I had no imagination whatever.” (256). He does not say his thoughts, but rather tells the exact opposite of what he is planning to do. He shows that he is a Maverick and uses words to his advantage. Richard also constantly puts “sir” at the end of each statement he makes. He states, “No, sir. I don’t… Well, sir. I don’t know…” This gives a sarcastic and mocking tone from Richard. Clearly, Richard is “attacking” the men very subtly with his words of “sir” because he views the people in the North with disdain. Richard despised the North and before he left for Chicago, he mocked the white men with words like “sir” as weapons to express his hatred and disgust of the North.

Both examples from Black Boy illustrate how words are used as weapons. His words could offend, console, enrage, or be a fatal weapon. In Wright’s unceasing quest for knowledge, he discovers a strange world that makes him feel “something new, of being affected by something that made the look of the world different.” (249). He sees the world with a whole, new different perspective and this allows him to use words as weapons to express his individuality.

Thus, Black Boy by Richard Wright depicts how words can be used as weapons. In correspondence to Richard Wright, the quote, “All literature is protest. You can’t name a single literary work that isn’t protest.” This means that literature is used to express ones ideas that not most people would agree to. Literature is used to “attack” society through words and thoughts. I concede with this quote because literature is used to present one’s ideas and opinions even though society is not agreeing with it. Due to this, literature is viewed as “protest.” The bildungsroman Black Boy by Richard Wright interprets how words and literature are used as weapons and “clubs.” Literature is the author’s sword and arrow and society is the opposing force.

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