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Black Boy

Black Boy

by Richard Wright

Analysis: What's Up With the Epigraph?

Epigraphs are like little appetizers to the great entrée of a story. They illuminate important aspects of the story, and they get us headed in the right direction.

They meet with darkness in the daytime
And they grope at noonday as in the night...
 
Job 5:14

So who is this Job fellow? Job basically gets the bummest deal in the whole Hebrew Bible. He’s just sitting around minding his own business when God allows the Devil to mess with him. And by mess with him, we mean destroy his house, kill his family, and give him horrible disfiguring diseases. For no reason.

On top of that, since people used to think horrible things only happen to you if you are a bad person, all of Job’s friends tell him to stop sinning so much. Did we mention that Job sins the least out of everyone in his town? Yeah. Great stuff, huh? The Book of Job is one of the most controversial books in the Bible, because it seems to be about God allowing his people to suffer for no reason at all.

If you’ve been paying attention, you probably already know where we (and Wright) are going with this. Richard is like Job. He suffers, horribly and constantly, for no reason at all, and meanwhile everyone is telling him that he’s evil and it’s all his fault.

And here’s a more metaphorical way of thinking about it. Notice that the epigraph talks about people groping around as though they’re blind. You could say that Richard is blind and groping his way toward the light. At first he thinks that the light is the North, but he finally figures out that actually what he’s after is a better understanding of life itself.

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