The theme of hunger persists throughout Black Boy. Richard shows not only his hunger for food, but hunger for knowledge and acceptance of who he is and how others see him. Richard's physical hunger surpasses his hunger for knowledge and acceptance, giving us perspective for his feelings and his living conditions. Poverty did not limit Richard's desire for education; he found his own opportunities to learn.
Physical hunger was a constant problem in Black Boy. From the start of the book, Richard's family was not well to do. When they moved to Memphis, and Richard's dad left the rest of the family, they fell into a downward spiral that led them into poverty. For instance, Richard talks about the hunger getting to him in the middle of the night, and how it was with him all the time (21). This physical hunger turned into psychological hunger, and became a part of his life.
During the course of the book, Richard recognizes the clear and painful connections between poverty, physical hunger, and powerlessness. His mother's struggle for her life makes him hurt, and all he could think about was the pain poverty brought to the family (111).
Richard's hunger for knowledge is a very large part of the book, symbolizing his struggles in life. From the very beginning, Richard shows an interest in finding things out and discovering new things. His episode with the burning curtains showed his large interest with such a small thing (10). After the family's move to Memphis, test books and novels intrigued Richard. When Ella is reading a book (46) he was almost "spell bound" and comes away with a sense of emptiness when the story is not finished (48). Richard shows a knack for education when he leaps a grade in two weeks...