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Free Study Guide-Black Boy by Richard Wright-Free Online Book Notes
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Desperate for work, Richard accepts the job of a porter in a shop selling cheap cloth material to the Negroes. He observes that the White owners of the shop behave callously with their black customers. One day, the boss and his son bring home a young, black woman but throw her out after abusing her modesty. Richard is shocked and infuriated with their behavior but he keeps quiet for fear of losing his job. He tries to detach himself from his surroundings by remaining indifferent to the happenings around him. The son of the owner resents his attitude and gives him the notice.

Richard is disgusted by the racial prejudice prevailing in the state, but remains a silent spectator for fear of punishment. One day, he meets his friend, Gibbs who is working in a Jewelry shop. As Richard inquires about a suitable employment, Griggs suggests one job but asks him to be cautious in his attitude towards the Whites. Thus, Richard gets employed in an Optical company where he is promised a good salary along with initiation into the trade. Richard is more than delighted and does his job with great humility. However, the English boys do not teach him the trade. When he questions them about it, the boys snub him. Richard keeps silent and does whatever he is asked to do. However, the boys pick up a fight with him and threaten him with punishment, if he does not quit his job. Richard therefore leaves the premises.

A week later, when he comes to collect his dues, his boss questions him about his resignation. After he becomes aware that Pease and his friend had troubled him, he takes the boys to task. However, Richard decides to discontinue his services in the company in order to avoid further confrontations.


Richard completes his education in school but the problems of hunger and insecurity continue to haunt him. Jobs elude him. He finally gets a job only to lose it. He takes up employment in a textile shop but when he observes the white bosses treating their black customers with contempt, his spirit rebels against their attitude. He feels revolted by the slavish treatment given to the Negro customers by the White owners and the passive acceptance of such attitude by the blacks. His revulsion, reflected on his face, is noticed by the son of his employer and he is thrown out of the job. Richard confesses in the chapter thus "I held a series of petty jobs for short periods, quitting some to work elsewhere, being driven off from others because of my attitude, my speech, the look in my eyes." Richardís troubled conscience stops him from aiding injustice and he suffers for it. The racial condemnation that he faces in his interaction with the blacks is very much similar to the condemnation that he faces at home from his aunt and granny because of his lack of faith in God. The difference being that, at home, he is able to give his own opinion to this matter. Whereas, here he does not have the right to respond as a normal human being would do under such unjust circumstances.

Richard learns a few lessons of survival from his worldly-wise friend, Griggs. His classmate gives him good advice for continuing in any job. According to him, "When youíre in front of White people, think before you act, think before you speak." He asks Richard not to act on impulses but think well before reacting to a situation. Richard remembers his advice when he takes up employment in the Optical Company. He is cautious in his speech and manner. However, his sense of justice makes him question his white colleagues about his initiation into the trade. And for seeking the truth, he is made to resign from the company.

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