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Free Study Guide-Black Boy by Richard Wright-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 18

Summary

A few White friends invite Richard to a get-together in a hotel. As they eat, they talk about world affairs and the spread of Communism in the world. A week later, a Jewish boy from the group, named Sol, informs them that his poem has been published in a magazine called Anvil, brought out by the Artist’s association of the John Reed club. He invites Richard to the club. A few days later, Richard visits the club and attends its meeting. The White members welcome him heartily and give him the previous issues of the magazine that they print. In the peaceful silence of the night, Richard goes through the magazines and the ideologies present in them inspire him immensely. He types out a crude but symbolic poem highlighting the relationship of the blacks with the Whites. At the next meeting of the club, he gives the poem to the editor Of Anvil, who decides to publish it in the forthcoming issues of the magazine.

Richard doubts their sincerity and overtures of friendliness. At the meeting, he is impressed by their activities and their mission and therefore decides to contribute his might to the benefit of the Negro community. However, he discovers that the club is intrigued by internal politics. The group of writers resents the domination of the artists group. The Left Front group, comprising of the writers, decides to re-elect the executive secretary. Richard is elected unopposed unanimously. However he becomes aware that he has been used as a ‘Negro’ to oust the group of artists, he avoids getting into petty politics and hands over his resignation. No one accepts his resignation and he is forced to head a group that is torn with rivalry.


He is also made a member of the Communist party. With unwanted responsibilities on his head, Richard finds it hard to sort out the problems of the club and keep every one happy. To make matters worse, a Jewish rebel, who calls himself a disinterested worker of the communist party, joins the club. He is given permission to stay in the premises of the club. Everybody appreciates his work but, his criticism of Swann, as an artist and a political worker, creates a controversy. Richard refers the matter to the high command.

As he waits for a reply, Young continues his attack on Swann. Swann and his supporters are antagonized and doubt the sincerity of Richard as a party worker. Troubled by the controversy, Richard decides to probe the matter. He does not find Young at the club. On searching through his belongings, Richard and a few members of the club get hold of an address in Detroit. On writing to the specified address, they learn that Young is a patient at the Lunatic asylum and had escaped. He however has been captured and is now undergoing treatment at the asylum. The news shocks them and they decide to keep it a secret. Swann is exonerated of all the charges against him.

Notes

Richard joins the Communist party with hope, but is soon disillusioned by its internal strife and poor administration. It is ironical that Richard, who is usually cautious about his moves, unconsciously becomes the member of a troubled party. Reading the magazines released by the John Reed club, Richard is impressed by the ideologies of the party. He observes a few activities of the club and believes the sincerity of its members in promoting talent. John Reed club looks impressive from outside. Only when he starts frequenting the club, does he become aware of its true nature. The members are more interested in promoting their own interests than in strengthening the foundation of the club. They elect Richard as its executive secretary because he is a Negro. By giving a Negro, a responsible post, they try to improve their image. The writers in the club use him to oust the group of painters from it. Richard is sandwiched between two groups of self-opinionated individuals.

Also, he is forced be enrolled as a member of the Communist party. Thus, Richard, who had joined the club to express his talent and enlighten the Negroes about Communism through his writings, gets completely disillusioned after becoming its active member. As the Secretary, he finds it difficult to put across his ideas to the egocentric and confuses party men.

Richard Wright presents an interesting anecdote to define the Communist party and its ideologies. When Richard brings home magazines from the John reed club, his mother gets hold of one. Glancing at the distorted image of a man, on the cover page, leading the people, his mother feels revolted and questions her son about its relevance. Richard is at a loss to explain its meaning. His mother then remarks "That picture’s enough to drive a body crazy." Richard is amused by his mother’s observation but believes that "the wild cartoon does not reflect the passions of the common people. The Communist’s were a confused lot. They propagated attractive ideologies but did not know how to execute their thoughts. They were good at provoking people but not satisfying them."

The eccentricity and extremism of the members of the Communist party is highlighted in the chapter. The members accept the spirited Young into the club, just because he calls himself a disinterested member of the Communist party and a member of the Detroit John Reed club. No one tries to confirm his credentials. His talent and devotion to the club impress them. Thus, when Young denounces Swann and talks vehemently against him as an artist and a worker, they start believing his words.

They forget that Swann is a faithful and dedicated member of the club. When Young asks for the removal of Swann from the club, Richard refers the matter to the high command. By the time they search the club premises, Young has disappeared from the scene. Later, they find out that Young was a lunatic who had run away from the asylum. The disclosure shocks Richard and he muses "Were we all mad that we could not detect a mad man when we saw one?" The eccentric members of the Communist party fail to notice anything strange in Young.

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