Black Boy

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Uncle Tom Character Analysis

Another stern disciplinarian, and Grandma and Grandpa’s oldest son, Uncle Tom lives on the outskirts of Jackson and later moves into Granny’s house. Tom attempts to discipline Wright and beat him with the switch, but Wright defends himself with a razor, saying that Tom has no say in his upbringing. Tom spends the rest of the memoir calling Wright violent and deranged.

Uncle Tom Quotes in Black Boy

The Black Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Uncle Tom or refer to Uncle Tom. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of Black Boy published in 2015.
Chapter 5 Quotes

Uncle Tom, Granny says to come at once. Grandpa’s dead.
You certainly are a prize fool. Don’t you know that that’s no way to tell a person that his father’s dead?
I ran all the way out here . . . I’m out of breath. I’m sorry.

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker), Uncle Tom (speaker), Granny, Grandpa
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard famously notes at the end of this passage that "he can never seem to do what people expect of him." He has tried his best to rush over to Uncle Tom to tell him what has happened to his father - but Uncle Tom replies that Richard has not done this correctly. In a sense, Richard has never been socialized at all - he has not been taught how to behave with friends, or relatives, or strangers; how to act in polite company. Richard does not really know how a family works, how people sit down to eat together, or talk. For Richard, life has been a series of struggles simply to eat, sleep, clothe and house himself, and stay alive. So when Uncle Tom tells Richard he doesn't know what to do with himself, Tom is, though harsh, correct - Richard has simply never been taught what it means to be in the world. He knows only how to suffer through it. 

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Uncle Tom Character Timeline in Black Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Uncle Tom appears in Black Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...in the house,” and sends Richard out to the far edge of town to fetch Tom, Grandpa’s son, to tell him of Grandpa’s death. Tom yells at Richard for announcing his... (full context)
Chapter 6
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...To bring in extra money and help around the house, Granny and Addie have Uncle Tom and his family, from the outskirts of Jackson, live in the house. One day, Tom... (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...another source. Granny worries that Richard is “doing the devil’s work,” as does Addie, and Tom complains that the story is “plotless.” (full context)
Chapter 8
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard discovers that his Uncle Tom has been keeping all his children away from Richard, since Tom still fears that Richard... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
But Richard continues, stubbornly, to want to read his own speech, even after Tom tells him (after having read both speeches) that the principal’s is more polished. Richard borrows... (full context)