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Black Boy

Black Boy

by Richard Wright

Black Boy Chapter 18 Summary

  • One night, some old friends invite Richard to chill and eat some food. Yeah, we were surprised that Richard has any old friends, too.
  • At dinner, he discovers that a lot of them have become Communists. Richard’s not down with that, but they hang out anyway.
  • Some nights later, one of his friends asks him to join the John Reed Club, a group for writers and artists with Communist leanings.
  • Richard resists at first, but finally heads down to a meeting. The place is nasty looking. A bunch of white men are having an editorial meeting, and they don’t treat him like poop even though they’re white. Naturally, Richard is suspicious.
  • At home, Richard starts reading some of their literature. By the end of the night he decides that Communism is the best thing since sliced bread (which incidentally had only been invented a few years earlier).
  • For once, Richard feels that he has something in common with other people. The feeling literally makes him jump out of bed and write a poem.
  • Enter Richard’s nosy mom, who is dubious about the images on the Communist magazine and tells Richard not to get mixed up with bad people. Instead of listening to her, Richard decides that Communists need to work harder on appealing to the common people, like his mom.
  • He points this out to the group, but they insist that his mom is the one who needs to change. Strike one against the Communists.
  • They do publish his poems, even though they’re not very good, because they don’t have any other black people.
  • While mopping at work, Richard gets the idea to make a series of bibliographies of black Communists. He hints that will turn out to be one the worst ideas that he has ever had.
  • Richard quickly realizes that there are some serious turf wars going on in the club. Basically, it’s painters versus writers, and the writers wanted Richard because, duh, the side with the black person wins.
  • They do win, and somehow Richard finds himself as the leader of the club.
  • And now there’s even more drama, because some people want to make the club about Communism, while others just want to write. Richard tries to please everyone. In the process, he’s forced to become a member of the Communist party. This might not end well.
  • So then a guy named Young comes to their meeting. He’s kind of shy and eccentric, a little weird, and he doesn’t answer Richard's questions. Richard doesn’t see anything wrong with this, thinking that this is just the way artistes are.
  • Then Young asks if he can sleep in the clubhouse. Sure, Richard says. Make yourself at home.
  • Young is a super hard worker and quickly becomes a respected member of the club.
  • Later, Young accuses an artist, Swann, of being a traitor. It is serious business, and there are meetings, debates, and a lot of emotion.
  • Richard gets the feeling that there is something up with this Young guy. (What was his first hint? Was it that this guy carries 10 carbon copies of things just in case they get stolen?)
  • Then Young disappears.
  • No one knows what happened to him, even when they search through his abandoned belongings.
  • Finally, Richard realizes that Young hasn’t disappeared at all. He’s just been put back in the mental institution that he escaped from—literally. What does that say about their little club, huh?
  • Richard doesn't tell anyone what happened to Young, and they drop the charges against Swann.
  • For Richard, the honeymoon period is over with Communism. He looked under the veil, and she was one crazy lady.

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