Quote 5

I would make his life more intelligible to others than it was to himself. I would reclaim his disordered days and cast them into a form that people could grasp, see, understand, and accept.

These lines, which occur near the beginning of Chapter 19, describe Richard’s motivation for his biographical sketch of Ross, the black Communist. Richard regards life in general as a fundamentally meaningless swirl of pain and suffering. To him, the most exciting experiences in life are attempts to create from this chaos something with form and order—in his case, writing, ideas, and art. But Richard is not a vain intellectual, and does not want to sit at home and read books for his private pleasure while the world suffers. Rather, as we see in his attraction to the ideals of Communism, he is profoundly concerned with the fates of other people. Richard’s faith in creative art and his concern for the public good come together in this passage. He wants to reclaim and reinterpret his “disordered days” not just for the private joy of creation, but also so that other people can understand and accept what he creates. Moreover, this passage outlines the outcomes Richard believes biographical writing can accomplish, offering insight into what Wright hoped to accomplish with the writing of Black Boy: to reorder his own past and come to understand himself, not merely for his own sake, but for our sake as well.