In Richard Wright’s autobiographical novel Black Boy, he depicts his tough life growing up starting from his “4-year-old days” in the South to his later years up in the North. The second part of the book The Horror and the Glory is about his life after he moves out of the South. Like the title seemed to suggest, even with little discrimination in the North, he still faced adversity financially and especially with his own identity.
In comparison to part 1, part 2 of Black Boy can simply be described as “slightly less depressing”.
Although Wright faced significantly less amount of discrimination, Wright still faced continuous issues in the North that carried on from the South, such as finding his identity, finding a job, and especially dealing with hunger and malnutrition. His cynicism is much more ubiquitous in The Horror and the Glory, as shown partly by his continued problems from part 1. For example, we first see his numerous references to hunger at the beginning of the first part: “Hunger stole upon me so slowly that at first, I was not aware of what hunger 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” (pg. 14). Throughout his life in the book, we notice frequent references to his hunger and how it affected his life and those around him. In part 2 when he applied for a job at the local post office, he was ineligible because he was underweight.
Wright describes his struggle to gain weight for the job: “Before I could receive a permanent appointment I would have to take a physical examination and the weight requirement was one hundred and twenty-five pounds and I with my long years of semi starvation-barely tipped the scales at a hundred and ten. Frantically I turned all of my spare money to food and ate. But my skin and flesh would not respond to the food. Perhaps I was not eating the right diet.
Perhaps my chronic anxiety kept my weight down. I drank milk, ate steak, but it did not give me an extra ounce of flesh” (pg.278). The continuation of the “hunger” reference was a strong contributor to Wright’s tone in the second paragraph. We can see that the constant hunger played a huge role in his actions and thought processes. Personal these references because they helped support Wright’s flamboyant and emotional writing style, which had been so prevalent in the book.
The Horror and the Glory also show more of Richard’s insights rather than the story-like writing style of the first part, which I thought was more helpful in exposing Wright’s thoughts, views, and perceptions which helped us understand him more as a person. The reader will be able to tell that Wright’s thoughts become more intricate and liberal as the book progresses. However, I have to admit that the last few chapters of this part seemed a bit slow and tedious to read. He decided to put a lot of emphasis on his relationship with communism, which to the reader may seem excessive to some extent.
Toward the end of chapter 19, he finally decides to quit the John Reed Club, describing the feeling he had as soon as he walked out the door as “a heavy burden seemed to lift from my shoulders. I was free” (pg. 361). Normally, the reader would probably infer at this point that Wright’s final problem in the story had been solved, but surprisingly his troubles did not stop there. We as readers feel sorry for Wright for most of the course of the book due to his seemingly endless life of hardship.
Overall, in The Horror and the Glory Wright says that his life in the North was not much better than in the South. However, this part of the book provides more insight and analysis of his feelings and views at the time rather than notable events of his life, which I thought was a refreshing change from part 1 of Black Boy. I would particularly recommend this to anyone curious about Wright’s involvement in communism, as Wright goes in especially in-depth with his views and actions regarding communism. I also recommend this to readers looking more for Wright’s idealistic writing style as opposed to his realistic writing style. Expect to see Wright’s unique, emotional tone and his colorful use of syntax and diction which have been prevalent throughout the book.