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Richard Wright is the protagonist of the book as it relates the story of his life. An intelligent and sensitive Negro, he tries to establish his identity in a country dominated by the whites. The book traces his struggles and aspirations.
All the people who retard his progress towards his goal are his antagonists. The White racists like Mr. Olin, the religious fanatics like Aunt Addie and the rigid Communists like Nealson come under this category. They behave unjustly towards Richard and hurt his sentiments. They curb his freedom of expression.
Richard bears the onslaughts of his antagonists patiently in order to achieve his goal. Thus, after a hard struggle, he accumulates enough money and runs away from his antagonists towards freedom. In the North, when the Communists try to curb his talent and individuality, he cuts off relations with them.
Reaching Chicago, Richard tries to establish his identity as a writer by penning down stories, articles and novels. The harsh experiences of his life induce him to voice his feelings against injustice despite the hurdles created by the racists and Communists. He is hopeful of arousing the world towards the problems of the Negroes through his writings.