The American Hunger: An Analysis Of "Hunger" As Used By Richard Wright In His Book, Black Boy

1570 words - 7 pages

The American Hunger“A hungry man is not a free man.” - Adlai E. Stevenson“Men can starve from a lack of self realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.” - Richard WrightThe life and story of Richard Wright is one of heartbreaking defeats and powerful victories. Growing up a poor black boy in the South, Richard Wright lived a life that was all too familiar to those in his situation at that time in history, a life of impoverished uncertainty. Richard experienced a rough childhood, and in many ways even more difficult later years, and while many people were in the same situation as he was, he was fortunate enough to be able to manage life’s hurdles and put ...view middle of the document...

Richard extrapolated from this to make the realization that because his father left him, he would not get to eat. Richard states: “As the days slid past the image of my father became associated with my pangs of hunger, and whenever I felt hunger I thought of him with a deep biological bitterness.” His association of hunger pains with his distaste for his father provides a constant source of psychological distress for Richard, persistently reminding him of his negative father. As Richard gets older, he begins to feel his physical hunger so strongly that he sees his pain as a manifestation in the form of a stalking predator. The pains of hunger were a part of most of Richard’s life, and as a result of this constant lingering suffering, he has learned to cope with his agony in much the same way one might deal with a benign, chronic affliction. He makes reference to his hunger as being like that of a companion following him throughout his day, but as his situation worsens, that companion becomes more menacing and threatening, as depicted in his saying, “Hunger had always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly.” However, with this “new hunger” that “baffled [him], scared [him], made [him] angry and insistent,” while antagonizing, also brought to him a great gift of insight. As a result of this hunger, Richard begins to make connections in his life and it causes him “for the first time. to pause and think.” This acts as a transcendent experience in Richard’s life as it opens his eyes and forces him to not only question his surroundings, but also reflect on his own soul and psyche. With this introspective awakening, Richard is exposed to a new kind of hunger, a hunger for knowledge and intellectualism.This new “hunger” for knowledge engulfs him as much as his physical need for food. Much like his struggle with his previous feelings of hunger, Richard sees many obstacles standing in the way of his new desire, and he begins to look for ways to be more proactive in his quest for satisfaction and fulfillment. Just as Richard’s quest for food would lead him to try to sell his dog, his desire for knowledge leads him to face his fears and take a bold approach. One of his first eye-opening experiences comes following his discussion with Ella, his grandmother’s boarder, in which he says that he was “… as much afraid of her as he was attracted to her.” This meeting leads to him asking about her books, in which he becomes infatuated with. As Ella and Richard read Bluebeard and His Seven Wives, Richard is enthralled in nearly every aspect of the story. Richard states: “I hungered for the sharp, frightening, breathtaking, almost painful excitement that the story had given me, and I vowed that as soon as I was old enough I would buy all the novels there were and r...


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