Black Boy: Metaphor Analysis

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Books

Richard views the written word, and at times the spoken word as well, as all-powerful. Stories represent an escape from the harsh realities that surround him. His first taste of fiction leaves him with a longing for more of these tales of adventure and fantasy, and throughout his childhood and adolescence he pursues reading material and even produces it for others as a way of liberating himself from an unsatisfactory life in the non-fiction world.

Glasses

In both Jackson and Memphis Richard finds work in optical shops, hoping to learn a useful trade. Perhaps coincidentally, the apprenticeship pertains to enabling and improving sight, the key sense in reading, which happens to be not only Richard’s favorite pastime but his passion and reason for living. Although he is bitterly discouraged by colleagues in both places, it seems that sight and the ability to read the word and the world are so important in Richard’s personal and professional life that he nevertheless remains willing to maintain this connection.

Violence

At various points in his autobiography, Richard is either the victim or instigator of violence. He hits, trips, boxes, and at various points threatens his aunt with a knife and his uncle with razor blades. All of these frantic actions illustrate Richard’s anger at the unfairness of the world, and demonstrate that he frequently responds to the physical and structural violence surrounding him with more of the same.

The Road North

Richard refers to roads, paths, trains and various modes of transportation, general means of getting from here to anywhere-but-here. But he daydreams of one destination in particular that symbolizes a true escape from the poverty, violence, racism and hunger he associates with the South. In the North, Richard fervently believes, black men have opportunities, in contrast to the legal and social oppression they experience in his hometowns. He wishes for nothing more than to get there to see for himself if he can make a life writing and surround himself with the cultural beliefs of a region less plagued by the legacy of slavery in post-Civil War Mississippi and Arkansas.

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