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Black Boy

Black Boy

by Richard Wright

Black Boy Chapter 5 Summary

  • So, Richard doesn’t have to worry about being converted anymore, and he can finally go to a non-religious school. He has no money for books, and his clothes are dirty and disgusting, not to mention so last season—but school is school.
  • Before this, he only had one year of unbroken schooling, and he only ends up getting four more. For comparative purposes: by the end of high school you’ll have at least three times the amount of education this guy had. Where’s your award-winning autobiography?
  • Anyway, on the first day of school Richard gets into a fight. Of course. It’s not really his fault, but he gets in trouble for it anyway. Probably because he hit the other guy in front of the teacher. Smooth move, Dick.
  • After starting off in fifth grade at first, Richard works his way up to sixth grade in two weeks. Everyone is astounded, and Richard decides that he’s going to become a doctor and change the world.
  • All the other kids have jobs, but Granny won’t let Richard work on the Sabbath (which is Saturday for her Seventh-Day Adventist church). Since Richard has no money, he’s always hungry at school.
  • One of Richard's classmates suggests that he sell papers. This is a great idea, because Richard gets money and something to read at the same time. Until…
  • A family friend tells him that the magazine he has been selling is racist. He shows Richard what the writers think a black president would look like, and it’s not very inspirational. Richard, who only reads the comics, is as usual clueless. But he does stop selling the paper.
  • Without a job, Richard has more time for his favorite hobby. No, it’s not looking at people pooping. It’s studying. Surprise! It turns out that Richard is totally the kid who does all of the homework for the semester in the first week.
  • One day during the summer, Richard is lazing around and listening to his mom, Aunt Addie, and Granny argue. Richard has the audacity to join in, and Granny swats at him. When he dodges, she falls down the stairs. Totally Richard’s fault, everyone agrees.
  • Aunt Addie and Richard get into it again, and Richard threatens to cut her if she touches him. Not to be so easily outdone, she says she’ll get him when he’s unarmed. For a month Richard sleeps with a knife under his pillow.
  • Richard points out that the level of violence seems a wee bit high for a religious household.
  • Towards the end of summer, Richard gets a strange kind of job. He becomes the assistant of an ex-janitor-turned-insurance-agent. It pays beaucoup bucks, and for the first time in his life he has money. Suddenly, everyone at home likes him. Everything is awesome until Brother Mance, the agent, dies. Then it’s back to poorsville for Richard and everyone hates him again.
  • One day Richard discovers that his grandfather is very sick. Now we get a little backstory on Grandpa, who served in the Civil War but refuses to talk about it. Grandpa also never got his disability pension because his name was misspelled on his military files. He spent years trying to get the error fixed without success.
  • A few days later, when Richard comes home from school, Aunt Addie tells him to go say goodbye. At this tender moment, Richard gets beaten again for not being able to understand what his dying grandfather is saying.
  • Richard gets in trouble over this again when, following orders, he runs to tell Uncle Tom that Grandpa has died. Uncle Tom is more upset that Richard just blurted it out than the fact that his dad is gone. Priorities, man.
  • Around this time Richard's clothes become so bedraggled that he threatens to leave the house if he can't hit up Abercrombie with Granny’s credit card. Ha! Actually, all he wants is to be able to work on Saturdays. Granny doesn't believe that he’d actually leave, until he literally starts packing his bags.
  • That does the trick, and Richard can now do whatever he wants.

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