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Themes

In Black Boy, fighting is just a part of Richard’s life. He fights at home. He fights at school. That’s just how it is, and it seems like that’s how it’s always going to be. But Richard manages to break free. When he grows up, Richard tries to leave behind his violent lifestyle—even when his new friends wants him to fight. It’s almost as though Wright thinks that a society based around race is always going to be violent—that violence is built into a system in which people are differentiated based on the color of their skin.

Questions About Violence

  1. Does the adult Wright think that young Richard was justified in threatening his family? Does he criticize adults like Aunt Addie and Uncle Tom for their use of force?
  2. How do children begin a career of violence? Is it natural, or is it taught? If it is taught, who teaches it?
  3. Why does Richard have to fight at each new school he attends? What would happen if he didn’t fight? Why doesn’t he fight at the religious school?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In Black Boy, violence is an everyday part of life that will never go away.

In Black Boy, pacifism is an invitation to let other people beat you up. The only way to survive is to fight back.

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