Each individual is shaped by the parental influences that surround their lives. Richard Wright s autobiography, Black Boy, displays the effects that social constraints and family interactions have on the individual. Family relations form the self image of Richard as he undergoes the vast struggle of understanding the nature of human interaction. It is through the complexity of human nature that Richard finds his own unique self image. Displayed through his many triumphs and tribulations during his coming of age, Richard s life struggle is focuses on overcoming the alienation of not truly understanding his environment. The focus surrounding Richard s life centers upon two struggles; the desire for a concrete physical existence and the true understanding of those around him.
The lack of true understanding in family relationships leads Richard into a life of solitude as he tries to overcome the harsh elements of his environment. Violence becomes the outward expression Richard relies upon in his struggle of physical existence in a world that alienates him. From an early age Richard s family interactions were disrupted by the absence of a father figure and the constant lack of food. Both these elements are essential for the physical and emotional security of a young child. The eternal hunger Richard experiences becomes interchangeable with the insecurities he feels with the absence of an essential father figure. "As the days slip past the image of my father became associated with my pangs of hunger, and whenever I felt hunger I thought of him with deep biological bitterness.' (p.
16) Reflecting upon the absence of a father, Richard parallels this emotional loss with the physical yearning of food which is needed in order to survive. It is in this absence of food and a father that Richard feels the insecurities of his existence. Without a true parental figure a child is left to view the world through their own perception. This perception is never clarified and can t fully be understood without the proper explanations. The alienation of a child who does not understand the complexity of family relationships leads Richard to independently form his own identity. An unconscious struggle ensues as Richard tries to cope with environments that he cannot rationally understand.
"I held myself in, afraid to act or speak until I was sure of my surroundings, feeling most of the time that I was suspended over a void.' (p. 30) Left without any parental figures Richard relays upon himself to secure his survival. Physically abandoned by his mother leads Richard to look inward escaping the emotional effects of abandonment. The solitude Richard endures leads to an existence without the formation of security. Having parental ties severed leads to the misconception that one must always remain dependent upon oneself. These early learning in life lead Richard into a life primarily composed of solitude.
With the complexity of death, Richard s lack of knowledge concerning human emotion is clearly demonstrated. Faced with bearing the news of his grandfather s death Richard does not contemplate the sensitivity that the issue holds for others. In himself there lies a lack of connection to any human relationship of proper behavior. "Every word and gesture I made seemed to provoke hostility. I had never been able to talk to others, and I had to guess at their meanings and motives.' (143) The loss of family figures leads Richard to an absence of social understanding. He continues to disrupt the traditional way of life that comes so easily to those that surround him.
In doing so Richard continues to be pushed farther and farther away from family connections. His family lacks a full understanding of the personal struggles that Richard continually endures. Family relationships are set with conditions that Richard can t fully meet because of prior experiences. The world has left him with a loss of faith in others and God, this loss of faith in divine love leads to the overpowering loss of family love. The declination of family bonds due to religion is displayed by the denouncement of his existence by Richard s grandmother.
"You left the church and your on your own. You are with the world. You re dead to me, dead to Christ.' (p. 144) Left in this world leads Richard again to the realization that he is alone without the important connection of family. The conditions of love and a relationship Richard s grandmother has set are impossible for Richard to meet further alienating him from any attempt to move beyond his solitude. Taught from an early age that violence is the only method for survival, Richard s dependence on violence secures his physical existence.
"Go to the store and buy those groceries. If those boys bother you, then fight.' (p. 17) Richard is taught by his mother that violence is a necessity in the harsh world he lives in. By introducing violence at an early age, Richard relays upon it to deal with the obstacles he faces.
Whenever he is placed in a situation he doesn t understand or can t control Richard turns to violence as a salvation. The early existence of violence in this child s life brings him to the conclusion that violence will carry forth his physical existence. In the social environment of school, Richard relays upon this violence to secure his position with his peers. Knowing a challenge will be present itself, Richard is prepared to use violence to secure his position in the school.
"I brushed the rock from his shoulders and grabbed him about the legs and dumped him on the ground.' (124) It is in these acts of violence that Richard finds a position in the world, that the security of his existence is brought forth. The alienation of family love leads Richard to turn to violence as a method of rectifying the misunderstanding of his image. Continually attacks from his family leads Richard to depend on violence to keep his own morals and integrity. Richard s image of himself is based upon his own judgment, as he grows and matures this images becomes stronger within himself. Solidarity has become Richard s other salvation as he continues to attempt to display the right outward reactions. Attempting to punish Richard for a situation that has been twisted and turned, Aunt Addie brings the violent reactions that Richard is dependent upon.
"I stood fighting, fighting as I never fought in my life, fighting with myself.' (107) The connection of family blood lines makes Richard crave for an understanding of himself. Turning inwardly to examine his life experiences, Richard tries to find an explanation to his personality. In this moment he questions his own creation and the circumstances that lead him to the path of violence. Fighting off his urges Richard desperately tries to endure the prying of Addie only to fail as she pursues a path of violence in which he must survive. With the struggle of social constructs Richard tries to construct his own self image. With this image he is further secluded from his family and his own race.
With the lack of interactions Richard was never taught the proper responses expected of him, leading to a miscommunication of those that surround him. When faced with a beating from Uncle Tom, Richard is left to relay upon violence in his struggle to survive. In a low voice Richard says, "If you touch me, I ll cut you! Maybe I ll get cut too, but I ll cut you so help me God!' (p. 159) It is in this domestic violence that the misunderstanding of Richard by his relatives is defined. While he does not respond properly to their comments they never allow him to learn their expectations.
Instead they force violence upon him and Richard s natural response is to relay upon violence to survive. The experiences of Richard s childhood have forever altered his path in life. Without the presence of strong family relationships and proper social constructs Richard is left in a world of his own. Creating his own self image and perception of the world, Richard is forced into a solitary existence based on survival. With his solitude comes a misunderstanding of the social constraints further severing his ties to his family. In the broken relationships comes forms of violence centering on the survival of Richard s own physical existence..