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Black Boy

Black Boy


by Richard Wright

Black Boy Chapter 4 Summary

  • Richard is living with Granny again, and he’s getting a little fed up with all the religiosity. He doesn’t mind listening to the sermons, but once he’s out of church he thinks it’s all a big joke.
  • On top of this, Richard is hungry. Like super hungry. Like fantasizing-about-vanilla-wafers and drinking-water-so-that-he-can-feel-full-hungry. Granny seems to only serve lard-based meals, and the occasional Tofurkey look-alike, which gives the whole family a constant case of heartburn and indigestion.
  • Richard can pretty much ignore Granny’s constant nagging him to get "saved" until she recruits a sidekick, Aunt Addie, who is fresh from religious school.
  • Guess who else is going to religious school, very much against his will? Richard. And guess who the teacher is? Aunt Addie.
  • Aunt Addie—we mean, Mrs. Wilson—isn’t going to win any teaching awards. One day she accuses Richard of dropping some walnuts on the floor and whops his hands when he (truthfully) denies it.
  • At home, she tries to beat Richard again, but Richard has just about had enough. Little 11-year-old Richard whips out a knife and chases his aunt while she runs after him with a wooden switch. Total slapstick gold. It’d be even funnier if this weren’t an autobiography and if it didn’t seem to happen to Richard all of the time.
  • Granny gets involved, Richard's mom gets involved, Grandpa gets involved, and of course they all take Aunt Addie’s side before Richard has even said a thing. Grownups, go figure.
  • Richard doesn’t back down, so we guess it’s a draw. After that, Aunt Addie ignores him.
  • So, Richard said before that Granny was pretty religious, but now he goes into detail about how their whole days are arranged according to her religious regime. He develops a method to avoid kneeling that involves complicatedly balancing on his tiptoes, which doesn’t really seem any better to us, but at this point we’re pretty much on his side no matter what he chooses to do.
  • At church these days, Richard ignores the sermon to focus on the preacher’s wife. Sounds like someone is going through puberty.
  • Granny has caught on that whipping doesn’t work, so now she’s trying a different tactic to save his soul: cult-style recruitment. Suddenly, everyone is all nicey nice trying to get him to become Christian. Everyone in the neighborhood is involved, even kids who have never talked to Richard before.
  • The thing is, it’s not that Richard thinks God doesn’t exist. It’s just that he doesn’t care either way.
  • Eventually, Richard is so fed up that he tells his grandma that, if he saw an angel, he’d join the church. Apparently she doesn’t have the best hearing, because she hears him saying that he saw an angel and he believes.
  • Ensue misunderstandings. The whole church ends up thinking that Richard saw an angel, and they’re just about to welcome him into their fold (One of us! One of us!) when Richard opens his big mouth to announce that he didn’t see an angel after all.
  • Granny is bummed, but she settles for making him promise to pray, and being a good boy.
  • He tries, not too successfully. Then, he thinks that maybe writing new hymns is just as good as praying. From hymns, it’s a short step to writing a story about a girl.
  • It’s the first story he’s written, and he’s so proud that he decides to show it to some other random girl. The girl is super confused (and we kind of are, too). Why did he write it? Where did the idea come from? What is he going to do with it?
  • Picture Richard slicking back his hair and saying, with his best nonchalant hipster air, "Oh, its nothing."
  • Right, Richard. Sure.

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