Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Richard Wright's Black Boy. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth
- When Written: 1943
- Where Written: New York City
- When Published: 1945
- Literary Period: the 20th-century African-American novel; the American memoir
- Genre: Memoir; coming-of-age story
- Setting: Primarily Jackson, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee, from 1908 till the 1920s
- Climax: Richard finally decides, with his aunt, mother, and sister, to leave Memphis and start a new life in Chicago
- Antagonist: Granny; Pease and Reynolds
- Point of View: first-person
“Bildungsroman.” Although Black Boy is a memoir, it could also be classified as a “coming of age” story. The German term for this type of narrative is “Bildungsroman,” or, literally, a “novel of education.” In Black Boy, especially, Richard’s personal education in the classics of world literature helps spur his journey to the North. (See, among other publications, the scholarly work Ten is the Age of Darkness: The Black Bildungsroman, by Geta LeSeur.)
Job. The epigram in some editions of the novel reads: “They meet with darkness in the daytime / and they grope at noonday as in the night.” This is taken from the Book of Job, a notable book of the Hebrew Bible, in which the main character suffers a series of trials and losses at the hands of God, to determine if he is a worthy person and a true believer in divine power.