Black Boy

Wright’s mother Character Analysis

Wright’s mother works hard to support Richard and his brother from a young age, but after her husband leaves the family, she must take on additional work in the kitchens of white families. Wright’s mother later succumbs to a series of strokes and is ill for much of Wright’s young life. At the end of the memoir, however, Wright’s mother has built up enough strength to be able to move north, to Chicago, with Wright, his brother, and Aunt Maggie.

Wright’s mother Quotes in Black Boy

The Black Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Wright’s mother or refer to Wright’s mother. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of Black Boy published in 2015.
Chapter 1 Quotes

You owe a debt you can never pay.
I’m sorry.
Being sorry can’t make that kitten live again.

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker), Wright’s mother (speaker)
Related Symbols: The “switch”
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

Mama, is Granny white?
If you’ve got eyes, you can see what color she is.
I mean, do the white folks think she’s white?
Why don’t you ask the white folks that?
But you know.
Why should I know? I’m not white.
Granny looks white. Then why is she living with us colored folks?
Don’t you want Granny to live with us?

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker), Wright’s mother (speaker), Granny
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Why are there so many black men wearing stripes?
It’s because . . . Well, they’re harder on black people.

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker), Wright’s mother (speaker)
Related Symbols: The “switch”
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Son, you ought to be more serious. You’re growing up now and you won’t be able to get jobs if you let people think that you’re weak-minded. Suppose the superintendent of schools would ask you to teach here in Jackson, and he found out that you had been writing stories?

Related Characters: Wright’s mother (speaker), Richard Wright
Related Symbols: Books and Novels
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat null

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Wright’s mother Character Timeline in Black Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Wright’s mother appears in Black Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...book’s author and narrator—and his unnamed brother sit quietly in their house in Mississippi. Their mother informs them that they must stay quiet, because their grandmother (their father’s mother) is dying.... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...tugging at him, and his father pulls Richard from out of his hiding place. Richard’s mother and father seem relieved, at first, that Richard is OK, and tell Richard that their... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s brother is horrified by Richard’s actions, and Richard’s mother chastises him, saying that it was a sin to kill the cat, and that Richard... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...there is no food in the house. At first, when he tells this to his mother, she laughs and says he should catch a “kungry” if he’s hungry—an imaginary beast that... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
His mother begins sending Richard out to buy groceries, and a pack of young boys in the... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother begins working as a cook for a white family, and Richard—who is forced to watch... (full context)
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
One day, Richard’s mother orders coal for the house and tells Richard to wait for the delivery man to... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...this age—around six—Richard also learns of the hatred between “white” and “black” people from his mother. Richard is at first confused, since his Granny (his mother’s mother) has very light skin... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother scrapes together money to send Richard to school—she must buy him a uniform so he... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother becomes more observantly religious after his father leaves, and she invites the preacher from the... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard goes to court, with his brother and mother, as his mother attempts to argue before a judge that Richard’s father should pay child... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...takes Richard back to the orphanage, where he is lashed by Miss Simon. When his mother next visits, she tells Richard that he must remain in the orphanage and be a... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
His mother agrees to take Richard out of the orphanage if he will go to his father... (full context)
Chapter 2
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother comes back to Richard—who has not yet left the orphanage, since his mother still cannot... (full context)
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’s mother and the two boys stop in Jackson to see Granny, who lives in a relatively... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother falls ill again and remains in her bed. One night, when Granny is bathing Richard... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...the more peaceful moments he and his brother enjoy with Grandpa and Granny. But Richard’s mother soon takes Richard and his brother aboard a train to Arkansas, where they will live... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard asks if he is black, and his mother says that society will view him as “colored,” but that Richard’s ancestry is really a... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Richard, his brother, and his mother move in with his Aunt Maggie—his mother’s sister—and her husband, Uncle Hoskins. The house in... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...although Maggie wishes to go down to the bar to find out what happened, Richard’s mother urges her to stay home. Because Hoskins was killed extra-legally, and because the white authorities... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
But after some time, Richard’s mother decides that Granny’s strict religious rules in the house are too much to bear, and... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
...and carries him back home, then launches into a tirade when Aunt Maggie and Richard’s mother return from their jobs (they are once again cooking for white families in the area).... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...as he only visits Richard’s house at night, and when Richard asks his aunt and mother about this, they reply that Matthews is on the run from white people who wish... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
One night, Matthews enters the house in a hurry, and tells Maggie and Richard’s mother, with Richard overhearing from his bedroom that he (Matthews) has set fire to a house... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...and takes his dog home. The dog is later crushed by a car, and his mother calls Richard a “fool” for not taking the money—as now the family has no money... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Richard’s mother finds a new job as an assistant to a white doctor, and her wages are... (full context)
Chapter 3
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...Richard is hit in the head with a rock, and when he later shows his mother what has happened, she beats him, saying that white boys could kill Richard in a... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
One day, Richard’s brother calls him in to his mother’s bedroom, and the two boys discover that their mother is paralyzed on her left side,... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...his insolence, Richard begs again to be sent back to Jackson, to Granny and his mother, and Clark finally agrees to do so. By the end of the week, Richard is... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
After returning to be with his mother, Richard realizes that her series of operations and treatments will leave her mostly sick for... (full context)
Chapter 4
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 recognizes that, as he is now an “uninvited dependent” in Granny’s home—since his mother is no longer earning money, but rather lying in her bed, and since Richard’s brother... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...she tries to beat him, since he has done nothing to deserve punishment. Granny, Richard’s mother, and Grandpa finally persuade Richard to put down the knife, but Granny and Grandpa call... (full context)
Chapter 5
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...converting Richard to Christianity, and Richard settles into an uneasy truce with them, as his mother recovers enough at least to encourage Richard in his studies from her bed. Richard enrolls... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
One summer day, Richard is sitting on the porch steps with Granny, Addie, and mother—Granny and Addie are arguing about “religious doctrine,” as they often do, and Richard is mostly... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...altogether, Granny relents, and Richard is permitted to work on Saturdays. When Richard tells his mother this, she is proud of him for standing up to Granny and Addie. (full context)
Chapter 6
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother again begins to recover from her stroke-induced paralysis, and begins going to a Methodist church... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
Richard’s mother does so, and begins weeping and praying for Richard, begging him to accept Christ and... (full context)
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
In the summer after seventh grade Richard's mother again falls ill. To bring in extra money and help around the house, Granny and... (full context)
Chapter 10
Racism Theme Icon
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...is leaving town, for Memphis, and that he won’t be returning any time soon. His mother worries that he is leaving to avoid some crime he has committed, and Richard does... (full context)
Chapter 13
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
Richard’s brother, who has been living in Jackson with their mother, comes up to Memphis with her to join Richard, and the three move into a... (full context)
Chapter 14
Racism Theme Icon
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
Aunt Maggie also moves to Memphis, as she is looking for work. Maggie, Richard's mother and brother, and Richard all decide simply to leave for Chicago as soon as possible,... (full context)