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Word Count: 1,752
Richard Wrights novel Black Boy is not only a story about one mans struggle to find freedom and intellectual happiness it is a story about his discovery of languages inherent strengths and weaknesses And the ways in which its power can separate one soul from another and one class from another Throughout the novel he moves from fear to respect to abuse to fear of language in a cycle of education which might be likened to a tumultuous love affair From the very beginning of the novel we see young Richard realize the power of language when he follows his fathers literal directions and kills a cat he has befriended12 Although he knows that this is not really what his father wants him to do following these directions explicitly temporarily gives him a sort of power over his fathers wishes At the same time it reveals a weakness in his father ie his lack of control over language gives him less power Later when Richard must defend himself against attackers who repeatedly try to steal his mothers money21 he learns a new and symbolic lesson Victory can come when one has money words the grocery list and a big stick to defend ones self His next experience with language frightens him away from it He becomes blind with anger29 when he is forced to clean four letter words from places he has written them He does not understand how in his innocence he could have misused something which had only done him good in the past After this experience Richard shies away from the use of powerful language for many years In one scene he refuses to blot the ink from a stack of envelopes36 fearing perhaps the power of the written word and in some way fearing that this action will bring back memories of the hateful day he had to blot out his own words from walls of his town Although his love
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