The Change Pains

Essay by Jason HammesUniversity, Bachelor's March 2005

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Why do people do what they do? How do they become who they are? What is it that makes you, you? In they autobiography, Black Boy, by Richard Wright one sees that through different life experiences how a poor, southern, black boy forms his identity through Social Structure, Ideology and Interaction. Wright was born September 4th, 1908 to a poverty stricken and abusive family on a Mississippi plantation. In 1944 he wrote a book telling is life story, not only the history he lived through but the aspect of American life though the eyes of a black boy trying to find his place.

In chapter 3 of Wright's novel he writes how in his twelfth year of life a growth spurt hit and he was thrown into a world of older people and had to conform to their ways of living (Wright, 1944, pp.91). Social structure is the social life in which one is placed into, including schedules, routines and various groups or institutions.

Wright's social structure at twelve years of age consisted of hanging out in a gang of black boys who spoke and played in childish ways, which expressed their strife for freedom and dependence as a man. The gang had specific rules that went unspoken, rather, were learned by making mistakes and breaking the rules only to get humiliated and no better the next time. This gang did not hang in the company of girls or whites. One never would show personal dependence on anything even on it's own members in the gang. Fowl language including the word nigger were used excessively in order to prove one's toughness (Wright, 1944, pp.91).

Although dependence was a taboo in the gang many of the boys in the gang were very dependent on their family and each other (Wright,