Language as a Means of Identity Essay

2572 Words11 Pages
Language has the power to do many things, one such thing is to in fact, create an identity. It can be used to create or destroy. In Black Boy, Richard Wright discovers this fact through life experience and through his reading into inspirational works, notably by H.L Mencken. Often in society, language is used to express individuality and make or break a person when it comes to their social acceptance. In Black Boy Richard Wright cleverly discovers and qualifies the importance of language at a young age. He passes his wisdom on to us, the readers, to make the decision for ourselves. Early on, the reader understands that Wright is “describing a universal black childhood, since the privilege of being able to express himself implied the responsibility of speaking for others who could not”(Fabre 251). Wright took on the responsibility of language, for everyone in his race who was prevented from taking language into his or her own hands. A stunning realization for Richard Wright in his autobiography was the multifaceted uses of language. His words could offend, soothe, incense, or even attack. Black Boy launches, a “serious indictment of the South- not in any direct accusations by Mr. Wright, but by the strength of his narrative” (Paulus 118). In Wright’s perpetual quest for knowledge, he discovers a strange world that makes him feel that he had missed something important in life. He conveys his amazement at the literary realm through his metaphorical language and curiosity depicting his point of view. Black Boy is not only a story about one man's struggle to find freedom and intellectual happiness, but it is also the story of Wright’s journey as a writer, and his discoveries of language’s inherent power. He also explores the way in which its power can separate one person from another, and more specifically draw a line between the races and classes. From the very
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