When a person thinks about hunger, food comes to mind. We never think of hunger as anything else. In Richard Wright’s book Blackboy, a young boy faces many different types of hunger. He refers to the phrase “American Hunger” throughout his book. I feel that the “American Hunger” which he is referring to is the hunger to be considered an American and be treated as an equal. Throughout his life he was treated as if he were from another planet. He was always considered to be different, an outcast and a loser. He felt the need to be a part of the so-called American Culture. He wanted to be able to do what the white children did. He wanted to be able to go to school, to learn, to read, have friends, have a job; but because he was an African American he could not. This is what I will be discussing, his hunger.
Hunger is not the only hunger he felt. He felt many other types of hunger throughout his life. His hunger came about when his father left his family starving which led to Richards physical hunger. He feels as though it is his job to support and help his family since his dad left. By reading and learning through co-workers he learned how to deal with others, whether they are black or white. He learns the secret of how to survive in his society by watching how others act and react to one another. An example of this is when Richard is in the elevator and the black get says “Watch this. I will get a quarter…” So the kid lets a white man kick him in the ass as hard as he can just for a quarter. This secret is what keeps him alive, places him in society where he belongs, and lets him live out is dream of becoming a writer.
Richard was so eager to learn that he kept constantly asking questions, and if his questions were left unanswered he would let his imagination take over.. He would try to find work in which he would be able to read some of the books. His family and relatives refused to let him learn. There is one incident in which his schoolteacher read to him. His grandmother got angry and said that reading was devils work. Through out his childhood he heard many terms and phrases. He never understood what they meant but once they were said he knew if they were good or bad. For example, when Richard was taking a bath and his grandmother came in to scrub his backside, Richard replied with, “When you get through, kiss back there.” This is just one of the many phrases he said in which he did not know the meaning. Richard’s grandmother flipped and wanted to beat Richard for what he had said. Richard had learned that phrase from school and didn’t know the meaning.
Through his eagerness to learn he began to understand himself, other blacks, and whites better. He continues to learn and to play dumb for his own survival. His self education began when a co-worker lent Richard his library card to read Mencken’s essays. He finally got a break from a white man who trusts Richard and is willing to let him read what he wants to read. He lets Richard “feed his hunger,” He feels that his dreams and his stories in which he reads are an escape for him. He wants to fit in with others and be able to be apart of America. He feels the need to go to school because it is his aspiration to become a writer. His reading puzzled his Aunt Maggie for she could not understand why someone would be reading just for fun because they liked it.
Through out the book Richard tries to feed all his hunger so that he isn’t hungry anymore. Not in the sense of food but the sense of knowledge. Back then it was hard to be the color black and survive and learn. Race was a big thing and could have gotten him killed at any time. But Richard learned form his mistakes and other peoples mistakes and overcame many obstacles. He is a patriot a hero a MAN. I feel that Richard had “kept himself full!”