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Black Boy

Black Boy


by Richard Wright


Character Role Analysis

Richard and Other Black People

Richard has so many foils you could stab at the page with your eyes closed and land on one. But let’s look at three examples:

  1. Granny. Granny is an uber-zealous religious lady, she believes books are evil, and she refuses to ask questions or to be questioned by anyone, let alone her bratty grandson. Richard, on the other hand, could care less about religion, loves books more than anything in the world, and asks questions so much that he irritates everyone around him. 
  2. Harrison. Harrison is willing to believe his white boss even though he has no proof that Richard wants to kill him. He’s even willing to fight just so he has enough to "pay down on a suit" (1.12.237). But Richard will only fight for his dignity.
  3. Shorty. Like Richard, Shorty dreams of going North. Unlike Richard, he’s lazy and depends on white people to make his living. When he needs a quarter for lunch, he puts on a fantastic act, "smiling, rolling his eyes" (1.12.63), "drooling, drawling, [and] humming his words" (1.12.68) and eventually letting a white man kick him for two quarters. Guess who makes it out?

Here’s the thing. Richard doesn’t have any role models. What he has are anti-role models, people like Granny, Harrison, and Shorty showing him how not to be. It’s not much, but it’s enough for Richard.