‘Big Boy Leaves Home’ by Richard Wright

Wright, Richard 1936

Big Boy Leaves Home by Richard Wright, 1936

The magic trick:

The value of the opening section to establish the friendship and innocence of the four boys

I’ve read two Richard Wright stories now for this SSMT blog, and they’re probably two of the very best. I actually was frustrated during the opening chapter of this story, feeling like it was a little indulgent as Wright went on and on with the banter between the four friends. I’m also an idiot, because as the story plays out, it becomes crystal clear that the “indulgent” opening section is crucial to the story’s effect. The boys are just that: boys. They’re having fun. Their biggest sin is swimming in someone else’s lake. But of course they’re not allowed to have a normal, carefree American youth. They are black kids in the1930s South. Sadly, that fact invades the rest of the story.

Faulkner’s “Dry September,” featured on the SSMT site yesterday, told a similar story from the white man’s point of view. It was harrowing enough as it was. “Big Boy” brings the horror of that story even more to the forefront emotionally, being as it is from the black point of view. And that’s quite a trick on Wright’s part.

The selection:

They fell silent, smiling, dropping the lids of their eyes softly against the sunlight.

“Man, don the groun feel warm?”

“Jus like bed.”

“Jeeesus, Ah could stay here ferever.”

“Me too.”

“Ah kin feel the ol sun goin all thu me.”

“Feels like mah bones is warm.”

In the distance a train whistled mournfully.

“There goes number fo!”

“Hittin on all six!”

“Highballin it down the line!”

“Boun fer up Noth, Lawd, bound fer up Noth!”

They began to chant, pounding bare heels in the grass.

 

Dis train bound fo Glory

Dis train, Oh Hallelujah

Dis train bound fo Glory Dis train, Oh Hallelujah

Dis train bound fo Glory

Ef yuh ride no need fer fret er worry

Dis train, Oh Hallelujah

Dis train . . .

Dis train don carry no gambler

Dis train, Oh Hallelujah

Dis train don carry no gambler

Dis train, Oh Hallelujah

Dis train don carry no gambler

No fo day creeper er midnight.rambler

Dis train, Oh Hallelujah

Dis train . . .

 

When the song ended they burst out laughing, thinking of a train bound for Glory.

“Gee, thas a good ol song!”

READ THIS STORY ONLINE

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