"Black Boy," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-2

August 5, 2013
Richard Wright's coming-of-age chronicle of his life in the south and later in Chicago, "Black Boy" depicts a boy searching for his way to become a man when the odds seem stacked against him.

Learn these word lists from the autobiography: Chapters 1-2, Chapters 3-6, Chapters 7-11, Chapters 12-16, Chapters 17-20
I yearned to become invisible, to stop living.
He dragged me into the back yard and the instant his hand left me I jumped to my feet and broke into a wild run, trying to elude the people who surrounded me, heading for the street.
But for a long time I was chastened whenever I remembered that my mother had come close to killing me.
There was the tantalizing melancholy in the tingling scent of burning hickory wood.
There was the languor I felt when I heard green leaves rustling with a rainlike sound.
Solace came when I wandered about the boat and gazed at Negroes throwing dice, drinking whisky, playing cards, lolling on boxes, eating, talking, and singing.
The scrawny kitten lingered, brushing itself against our legs, and meowing plaintively.
Contrite, I went to bed, hoping that I would never see another kitten.
As the days slid past the image of my father became associated with my pangs of hunger, and whenever I felt hunger I thought of him with a deep biological bitterness.
I always loved to stand in the white folks’ kitchen when my mother cooked, for it meant that I got occasional scraps of bread and meat; but many times I regretted having come, for my nostrils would be assailed with the scent of food that did not belong to me and which I was forbidden to eat.
She beat me; then she prayed and wept over me, imploring me to be good, telling me that she had to work, all of which carried no weight to my wayward mind.
A tall black boy recited a long, funny piece of doggerel, replete with filth, describing the physiological relations between men and women, and I memorized it word for word after having heard it but once.
Yet, despite my retentive memory, I found it impossible to recite when I went back into the classroom.
I sobbed, begging my mother to let me go, telling her that I would never write such words again; but she did not relent until the last soap-word had been cleaned away.
My mother ushered me and my brother one morning into the building and into the presence of a tall, gaunt, mulatto woman who called herself Miss Simon.
The most abiding feeling I had each day was hunger and fear.
When she was angry her eyelids drooped halfway down over her pupils, giving her a baleful aspect.
They read my insistence as mere obstinacy, as foolishness, something that would quickly pass; and they had no notion how desperately serious the tale had made me.
I listened, vaguely knowing now that I had committed some awful wrong that I could not undo, that I had uttered words I could not recall even though I ached to nullify them, kill them, turn back time to the moment before I had talked so that I could have another chance to save myself.
There was the breathlessly anxious fun of chasing and catching flitting fireflies on drowsy summer nights.
There was the drenching hospitality in the pervading smell of sweet magnolias.
There was the aura of limitless freedom distilled from the rolling sweep of tall green grass swaying and glinting in the wind and sun.
So, surreptitiously, I took some of the biscuits from the platter and slipped them into my pocket, not to eat, but to keep as a bulwark against any possible attack of hunger.
She had grown tired of the strict religious routine of Granny’s home; of the half dozen or more daily family prayers that Granny insisted upon; her fiat that the day began at sunrise and that night commenced at sundown; the long, rambling Bible readings; the individual invocations muttered at each meal; and her declaration that Saturday was the Lord’s Sabbath and that no one who lived in her house could work upon that day.
We rented one half of a double corner house in front of which ran a stagnant ditch carrying sewage.
To hold an attitude of antagonism or distrust toward Jews was bred in us from childhood; it was not merely racial prejudice, it was a part of our cultural heritage.
If I spilt salt, I should toss a pinch over my left shoulder to ward off misfortune.
I resolved that I would emulate the black woman if I were ever faced with a white mob; I would conceal a weapon, pretend that I had been crushed by the wrong done to one of my loved ones; then, just when they thought I had accepted their cruelty as the law of my life, I would let go with my gun and kill as many of them as possible before they killed me.
The hostility of the whites had become so deeply implanted in my mind and feelings that it had lost direct connection with the daily environment in which I lived; and my reactions to this hostility fed upon itself, grew or diminished according to the news that reached me about the whites, according to what I aspired or hoped for.
“Just forget us and write your name and address,” the teacher coaxed.

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Tuesday November 19th 2013, 11:57 AM
Comment by: CLP
ERROR! One of the "learn this list" MC questions is misleading. The definition provided for LANGUOR is "a relaxed comfortable feeling" but in the "Learn this List" secion, the correct answer, according to the choices for "what is most likely to lead to a feeling of languor" is A BAD COLD. This contradicts the definition given on the original list.

the more correct answer might be "a light meal" -- as "lively music" would not lead to one's feeling relaxed.

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