Notes on Objects & Places from Black Boy

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Black Boy Objects/Places

School: School is various things to the young Wright: it is a place where he has the opportunity to get away from his family and learn, but it is also a place where he has to gain the respect of his peers. He does a lot of fighting there, especially because he is often a new student, since his family moves often. He devours the books given to him and then analyzes the boys and girls around him, listening to the way they talk about each other and about the whites many of them work for.

Church/Religion: The church is the primary way that Wright's granny and mother use to discipline him. Because he refuses their church (Seventh Day Adventist) in favor of atheism, he is branded a sinner who will send the entire household to hell. In addition, he is rejected from the social life his peers have constructed around the church. They threaten him, plead with him and humiliate him in public, but he can never 'feel God.'

Beale Street: Beale Street, in Memphis, was viewed by the family as a den of sin. However, when Wright leaves home he is drawn to it, and meets Mrs. Moss and Bess, his landlady and her daughter. Both women are as kind as they are naive. They feed him and care for him, and quickly suggest that he marry Bess, because he is such a nice boy. Wright is taken aback, and realizes that things are not always what they seem to be; he had originally thought the place was a whorehouse!

Hospital: In the hospital, Wright is a custodian working with a few friends, specializing in preparing animals for experiments. When two of the men get into a fight and knock over the animal cages, they are unable to right things because the white doctors had always refused to tell them anything about the experiments. They hide the damage as best they can, and are never caught. This sort of incident is quite similar to others in Wright's professional life, where whites do not seem to mind if blacks cheat or steal or lie, as long as they do not try to gain power or information.

Communism: Joining the Communist party opens Wright's eyes. He realizes that not everyone is racist, and that some people have the drive to realize their full potential as humans. Like Wright, they attempt to change themselves, and the world, through politics. And yet they are also ignorant and suspicious. They are skeptical of Wright, calling him an intellectual even though he mops floors for a living. He leaves the party but retains its values of united striving for justice and peace.

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