Black Boy

Books and Novels Symbol Analysis

Books and Novels Symbol Icon

Books symbolize a great deal of the memoir’s most important ideas. Books provide an imaginative escape for Richard, whose life is lived in grinding poverty and amid terrible racial suppression and violence. They allow Richard to develop as an individual, and provide windows onto different parts of the world, places Richard can only dream of visiting one day, after he has left the South. They are hard for Richard to obtain (Ella, for example, lends him some, and Falk allows Richard to use his library card), but once Richard has them, their ideas can never be taken away. Thus books offer a respite from the difficulties of Richard’s life. They are also a means of escaping that life, of attempting to set up a new and better home in Chicago. Finally, it is Richard’s education in literature that allows him to write Black Boy itself. The memoir describes Richard’s young life and Southern upbringing as forming his intellectual path, and included in the book are the events, and texts, that have shaped him. By the memoir’s end, Richard is writing his own material—he is contributing to the “conversation” between books that has captured his attention since childhood.

Books and Novels Quotes in Black Boy

The Black Boy quotes below all refer to the symbol of Books and Novels. 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 6 Quotes

What grade are you in school?

Seventh, ma’am.

Then why are you going to school?

Well, I want to be a writer.

A what?

A writer.

For what?

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker)
Related Symbols: Books and Novels
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 11 Quotes

Where might you be from?

Jackson, Mississippi.

You act mighty bright to be from there.

There are bright people in Jackson.

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker), Mrs. Moss (speaker)
Related Symbols: Books and Novels
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 14 Quotes

Yet, deep down, I knew that I could never really leave the South, for my feelings had already been formed by the South, for there had been slowly instilled into my personality and consciousness, black though I was, the culture of the South. So, in leaving, I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, and bend in strange winds . . . .

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker)
Related Symbols: Books and Novels
Page Number: 284-285
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 15 Quotes

My purpose was to capture a physical state or movement that carried a strong subjective impression, an accomplishment which seemed supremely worth struggling for. If I could fasten the mind of the reader upon words so firmly that he would forget words and be conscious only of his response, I felt that I would be in sight of knowing how to write narrative.

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker)
Related Symbols: Books and Novels
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 19 Quotes

Stalin’s book had showed how diverse minorities could be welded into unity, and I regarded it as a most politically sensitive volume that revealed a new way of looking upon lost and beaten peoples. Of all the developments in the Soviet Union, the method by which scores of backward peoples had been led to unity on a national scale was what had enthralled me.

Related Characters: Richard Wright (speaker)
Related Symbols: Books and Novels
Page Number: 335
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Books and Novels Symbol Timeline in Black Boy

The timeline below shows where the symbol Books and Novels 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
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...teaches Richard how to recite the numbers. Richard also begins picking his way through children’s books left on the street by schoolchildren. (full context)
Chapter 2
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
...skin. She has a young girl board with her, a teacher named Ella. Ella reads novels frequently, and tells Richard the plot of the novel Bluebeard after Richard repeatedly asks what... (full context)
Chapter 4
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...he is supposed to be praying, Richard’s mind wanders, and he begins thinking of a book on Native Americans he read recently. He quickly drafts a story of a young Native... (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
Granny and Addie will not give Richard money for “earthly books,” meaning anything that is not the Bible, and they continue to feed him on a... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...Richard is nonetheless ashamed. Richard works hard that year in school, and reads whatever dime-store novels he can get his hands on in his spare time. As summer begins, however, Granny... (full context)
Chapter 6
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...searches for employment in order to make enough money to buy food for himself and books to read. He asks his fellow students if they know of any work helping white... (full context)
Chapter 7
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
...continues, and Richard looks again for better-paying work to enable him to eat and buy books. He gets a job as a water-boy at a brickyard, where he is bitten by... (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
...writer. Although his family finds this dream “foolish” and “weak-minded,” Richard has convinced himself, from novels he has read secretly in his spare time, that the life of a writer is... (full context)
Chapter 11
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...marriage. After dinner, Richard and Bess talk for a moment, and she shows him her schoolbooks (she is 17 but only in fifth grade); Richard goes up to his room that... (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
...that any writer believed to be dangerous by Southern whites must be a writer worth reading, and decides he will get his hands on Mencken’s books from the public library, which... (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
...“Falk’s” note to the librarian at the Memphis library, and she agrees to lend the book to Richard “for Falk,” although she worries for a moment that Richard himself will read... (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
Richard begins staying up most nights reading. He checks out more books from the library, using Falk’s card, including novels by Dreiser... (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
...he’s leaving, and though they ask why he’s going to Chicago, and wonder if the books he reads have encouraged him to leave, Richard simply replies that he is moving North... (full context)
Chapter 15
Racism Theme Icon
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...the surprise of the “boss lady” at the diner when she realizes that Richard reads The American Mercury , H. L. Mencken’s magazine. No one else on the staff concerns themselves with that... (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
...in, and they live in close quarters together. Richard spends much of his free time reading (Gertrude Stein and Dostoevsky especially), and he practices his own writing, despite his family’s disapproval... (full context)
Movement and Dislocation Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Reading and Writing Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...his project of intellectual betterment, though it’s difficult to maintain his schedule, continue his broad reading, and deal with his family, who are confused by his dedication to books. Although he... (full context)
Chapter 16
Racism Theme Icon
Hunger, Illness, and Suffering Theme Icon
Christianity and “Being Saved” Theme Icon
Society and the Individual Theme Icon
...friends with a group of Jewish and Irish self-taught intellectuals, who discuss some of the books and pamphlets they’ve been reading, including discussions of contemporary society. Richard is dismayed to discover,... (full context)