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Black Boy

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Alienation in Black Boy

This essay will talk about how Richard in Black Boy was living a life of alienation, created by his oppressors the white man and how the white man's power was able to make the black community oppress itself.

What does alienation mean? "Alienation (or "estrangement" means, for Marx, that man does not experience himself as the acting agent in his grasp of the world, but that the world (nature, others and he himself) remain alien to him. They stand above and against him as objects, even though they may be objects of his own creation. Alienation is essentially experiencing the world and oneself passively, receptively, as the subject separated from the object." 1.(ch5, Marx's Concept of Man, by Erich Fromm) Alienation for what I understand it to be, is that I as a human being, (subject), I'm living my life with out being able to dictate what I want to do with it. The oppressors of my world are the ones dictating what I'm supposed to be doing with it. This creates my alienation from my world; making me live a life of oppression. You basically become a slave to your world.

An example of how the black community is an oppressor to Richard is by the way that they ignore his questions about racial relations between the white men and blacks. This is a perfect example in how the oppressors have managed to oppress the black community, by making themselves be discouraged, and by killing any curiosity to try and overcome the oppression. Richard is discouraged by his own people, because they fear that in a sense, Richard could cause trouble for them if he where to understand what was going on. By doing this, the black community is killing Richard's curiosity, and with out curiosity Richard would become a slave. He wouldn't ask any more questions, this would eliminate his hunger for knowledge; making him live a passive life, which would create his alienation. Another example of the black community discouraging Richard's hunger for knowledge is when Richard's mother is reading a novel and the grandmother stops her from reading it. She says it the devils work and she wont allow it in her house. But Richard kept his hunger and began reading more and more novels. Thanks to his hunger Richard gets to surpass reading pop novels and starts reading more sophisticated books. When Richard reads A Book of Prefaces by H.L. Mencken, he know realizes that he has the power and desire to write. Thanks to this book Richard can start to end his alienation and begin to take control of his life, he can stop living a passive life. In his own words: "I concluded the book with the conviction that I had somehow overlooked something terribly important in life. I had once tried to write, had once reveled in feeling, had let my crude imagination roam, but the impulse to dream had been slowly beaten out of me by experience. Now it surged up again and I hungered for books, new ways of looking and seeing." 2 (ch13 Black Boy by Richard Wright)

An example of Richard's encounter with white oppressors where with Pease and Reynolds, they are two white southerners who worked with Richard at the optical shop in Jackson, Mississippi. Richard wants to learn how to operate the optical machines. He got the job because he knew algebra. Which shows us that he was highly capable of working the optical machines. But Pease and Reynolds wanted to oppress Richard, they wanted to keep him ignorant and that way he would be alienated from being able to do the job he wanted to do. Finally he ends up quitting. Another example with white oppression is when Richard gets the job with the other optical shop in Memphis, Tennessee. Olin, Richard's coworker, a white southerner pretends to be Richard's friend but in actuality tells Richard's lies about Harrison, a black worker at a rival optical shop in Memphis, and makes Richard and Harris fight each other. Richard and Harris talk to each other, so they know that they are being set up, but they still don't trust



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