Hunger as a Theme in "Black Boy" by Richard Wright

Essay by scharmer8891High School, 11th gradeA, February 2007

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Throughout the autobiographical novel "Black Boy", Richard Wright uses hunger to symbolize struggle in his life. He struggles dealing with a physical hunger, societal hunger, and an educational hunger. He constantly tries to appease this hunger by asking questions, but he soon finds out that he will only learn from experience. These experiences have a life-lasting effect on him and quickly instill the Jim Crow culture upon Richard.

The first type of hunger in Richard's life is a physical one, one due to poverty. Soon after his father leaves him, this physical hunger becomes stronger and often becomes associated with his father leaving. He says, "As the days slid past the image of my father became associated with my pangs of hunger, and whenever I felt hunger I thought of him with a deep biological bitterness" (18). Physical hunger becomes such a large part of Richard's life, leading him to personify hunger by saying, "Hunger stole upon me so slowly that at first I was not aware of what hunger really meant.

Hunger had always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly" (16). After his mother becomes too ill to work, Richard experiences awful nightmares and sleepwalking fits which Granny believes is a side effect of his extreme hunger. He constantly asks his mother where he can get some food and finally, after one time when he tells her that he is hungry, she tells him to "jump up and catch a kungry" (16), a made up food to distract the thought of hunger from Richard. He describes this hunger he feels by saying, "I knew hunger, biting hunger, hunger that made my body aimlessly restless, hunger...