Notes on Black Boy Themes

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Black Boy Topic Tracking: Loneliness

Chapters 1-5

Loneliness 1: He never knows his father, which obliges him to become the father in the Wright family, forgoing neighborhood games to work and falteringly trying to "become a man." This isolates him from people his own age, and makes him wary of his elders.

Loneliness 2: He feels intellectually and spiritually alone in the South, where every one he knows is religious. His family and friends repeatedly try to convince him he needs God. It is only when he comes to Chicago that he meets people as admittedly cynical and atheist as he is.

Loneliness 3: In addition, he cannot understand why Blacks are content to remain uneducated and compliant with the way society is organized. Even when he is a very young child, he is continually questioning life and trying to learn new things.

Loneliness 4: This contributes to his feeling lonely in the church because even when he tries to pray he never feels anything--it just does not seem to relate to his life. For a long time he sees himself the way his family does: as an incorrigible sinner.

Chapters 6-10

Loneliness 5: All throughout his life, he is violently forced away from the white world by fear of abuse. Although he at first tries to talk to white people naturally, he soon realizes that even the kindest of Southern Whites assumes that he is above Richard in some way.

Loneliness 6: Stratified in terms of gender as well, he cannot relate to women (examples: Bess and the woman who wants to go to the circus). Most of his relationships with them are purely sexual, and there is never any mention of a girlfriend.

Chapters 11-15

Loneliness 7: Richard is ignored or silenced even at work. No one is interested in helping him, even to learn a new skill that would benefit the company. In general, his suggestions are met with skepticism or hostility. He longs to go North, where he thinks he can truly make something of himself.

Loneliness 8: Upon arriving in the North, he feels lonely at first because he cannot understand what anyone is saying (because of their accents), and he does not know their motives, because they are friendly to him even though he is black. He keeps trying to discern racism in their actions, but cannot. This frightens him more than any Southern white man, because it is utterly unknown to him.

Loneliness 9: He has no friends in the North until he meets the Irishman at the post office. Up to that point, everyone around him is so different as to be impossible to relate to.

Loneliness 10: He associates himself with Communism, and hopes to befriend black Communists, but he understands them just as little as anyone else he has met. This is a grave disappointment for him, especially because their reaction to him is so insulting: they view him as an intellectual and laugh at the proper way he speaks.

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