Black Boy and Mama’s Girl Comparison and Contrast Essay Mama’s Girl by Veronica Chambers and Black Boy by Richard Wright are autobiographies about two people growing up black in America. Richard Wright, born in 1908 near Roxie, Mississippi, became to be one of the most influential black writers in America and his work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century. Veronica Chambers, author of Mama’s Girl, has spent most of her career being an editor for various papers and magazines and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Both books describe how it is like to grow up being discriminated against and the trials that one goes through being a black American. Both Black Boy and Mama’s Girl have similarities and differences in the settings, lifestyles, and style in which the Author tells their story. Black Boy and Mama’s Girl took place in two very separate time periods. Black Boy took place in the early 1900’s but predominately in the 1920’s when racial tensions in American society reached their boiling points.
On the other hand, Mama’s Girl took place in the late 1900’s but predominately in the 1970’s when racism was still visible but not as severe, mainly due to the civil rights movement. Although these two books take place in two dramatically different time periods in American history, they both take place in times when black American’s faced racial discrimination and were not treated equally. The settings in these books took place in two physically different locations although the emotional basis of the communities were quite similar.
Wright traveled a lot from place to place in his early life, and saw many different attitudes towards the way blacks were treated. His story starts in Mississippi, the “Jim Crow South” where blacks were persecuted and discriminated against harshly. He then moves to Memphis Tennessee where his mother struggles to cope with tensions and starts becoming physically ill. He moves throughout Tennessee traveling to different relatives houses while his situation with his mother is unstable. Once Wright is old enough to become independent he moves to Chicago to try to start a better life for himself.
Once in Chicago, Wright comes upon many issues with keeping a job and becoming successful. Chambers life on the other hand, starts in Brooklyn, New York where racial tension isn’t as severe because Brooklyn is a mainly black community in the 1970’s. She lives with her Mother, Father, and Brother in Brooklyn but moves around a lot due to her father leaving and her mother having to support the family on her own. She then goes to California when her mom takes a vacation to visit her aunt but ends up falling in love so Chambers mom moves herself and Veronica to California.
The racial tension is bad in California, where the American blacks and the Mexicans are forced to live in close proximities and tensions become high leading to violence and gang fights. Chambers doesn’t get along with her step father so she moves to Jersey and lives with her father and abusive stepmother. Once in Jersey, she works hard to obtain a scholarship while dealing with an abusive stepmother and eventually does. She then moves to Simon’s Rock College in Massachusetts where she was named one of Glamour magazine’s Top Ten College Women of 1990.
Black Boy took place in 1912-1937. Main current events such as the Prohibition starting in 1919, the Great Depression starting in 1929, and World War I, which began in 1914 and ended in 1918. Prohibition in the United States focused on the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Drinking itself was never illegal, and there always were exceptions for medicinal and religious uses. Although alcohol consumption did decline, there was a dramatic rise in organized crime in the larger cities.
World War one had huge effects on America including highly productive industry that preceded the Great Depression, jobs given to woman, which helped pass the nineteenth amendment, and a new kind of diplomacy and antiwar sentiment that affected America’s entrance into World War II. The Great Depression was mainly started by the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The net effect of the Great Depression was a sudden and general loss of confidence in the economic future of America and high unemployment rates all across the country.
Mama’s Girl took place in the years around 1970-1990. The Watergate Scandal in 1972, the Summer Olympics being boycotted in 1980, and Ronald Regan was inaugurated in 1981. In 1972, five men were arrested for the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D. C. The House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach the President due to suspicion that he was involved in the Watergate Scandal but later in 1974 President Nixon resigned, becoming the first (and as of 2012, the only) President to step down.
In 1980 the U. S. boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1981 Ronald Regan was inaugurated as the 40th president of the United States and became the face of the United States during the 1980’s. Wright grew up in the 1920’s before the Civil Rights Movement, showing that he grew up in a much harder racial time than Chambers did where blacks were treated unfairly and discriminated against constantly.
Chambers grew up after the Civil Rights Movement where racial segregation was no longer legal and the problems for blacks weren’t as bad because of the stress placed on racial equality during the Civil Rights movement and the effects it had on the Black population all throughout America. The biggest racial tensions in the 1920’s were related to race riots, lynching, and the Ku Klux Klan. Where racial tensions in the 1970’s-1980’s were mainly related to small issues such as gang fights, lower class living standards, and low income, bad employment.
The family life of Wright in Black Boy and the family life of Chambers in Mama’s Girl is quite similar considering the different time periods and locations. Both grow up with an abusive father that leaves the family for another woman, both go through hardships living with a single mother, and both are moved around due to their mother’s needs. Wright grows up as a curious child living in a household of strict, religious women and violent, irresponsible men. His father deserted the family, and he was shuffled back and forth due to his mothers bad employment and inability to support her children on her own.
He was shuffled between his sick mother, his fanatically religious grandmother and various aunts and uncles while his mother was sick. Chambers also grows up as a child living in a house of a dominant female figure and a violent, irresponsible father. Her father deserted the family like Wright, and her mother had to work to support the family. She also had to move around a lot due to her mother’s needs, such as not having a steady job and her mother falling in love. Both Black Boy and Mama’s Girl are full of hardships and trials and they are in fact a main theme in both books.
Richard goes through many hardships as a child and as an adult having to deal with racial prejudice, unstable work, an unstable family and one of the main hardships of many different types of hunger. Wright suffers from hunger his entire life, not only for food but also for acceptance, love, and an understanding of the world around him; but most importantly, Wright possesses an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Wright’s struggle with hungers started within his family. His family was never able to provide everything that a family is supposed to, such as love, security and acceptance.
In fact, the majority of their interactions are the exact opposite of this. The adults in his family often argued with him, and preferred to have as little contact with him as possible. Chambers also deals with the same trials and hardships as Wright such as an abusive unstable family and the different hungers of acceptance, love, understanding, and knowledge. A great example of Chambers hunger for acceptance and love is when she rewrites her Christmas wish lists to her mother’s budget.
This shows that she is trying to be the perfect child and do the best she could do for her mother, which would gain acceptance and love from her mother. Richard Wright shows personality traits throughout the book Black Boy such as being independent, impulsive, and educated. He shows his independence by moving to Chicago to start a new life on his own, looking for a job to support his mother and his family at a considerably young age, and standing up for his beliefs on not being religious or going to a religious school and being able to attend a public school with other black children.
He shows his impulsive side when he has spontaneous acts of violence by pulling knives on Aunt Addie, killing the kitten, and beating children on the playground to gain acceptance. Richard shows how educated he is when he is literate opposed to most of the blacks during his time who cannot read or write, and when he shows interest in wanting to write his own stories and actually starts to write stories of his own. Veronica Chambers shows personality traits such as being dedicated, smart, and independent. She shows how dedicated she is by trying to earn a scholarship to get out of her bad life situation.
She shows how smart she is when she receives a scholarship and is accepted into college at the age of sixteen and she shows how independent she can be when she moves all by herself from California to Jersey because she does not get along with and does not like her step father. Richard Wright and Veronica Chambers both had a dominant goal and a dominant success. Richard’s main goal was to be successful in life through his writing and education. He eventually obtained that goal but it took him many steps and a lot of time to get there.
He started out writing short stories as a teenager and eventually got a job writing for the communist party which eventually led him to the ultimate success of becoming an independent professional writer who wrote one of the greatest literary masterpieces by a black man in his time period. Veronica Chambers dominant goal was to attend college and make her mother proud. It took Chambers quite a long time to obtain these goals but eventually she got a scholarship, went to college, and made her mother proud by succeeding in graduating from college and having a successful career.
Both Richard Wright and Veronica Chambers are writing for the same type of audience. They are writing for readers who want to be educated about the black community and what it is like growing up a black American. They are both trying to portray the message that they went through trials and hardships that most of America’s population will never have to go through. They are most likely writing specifically for the Americans who have never had to go through trials like these so they will be informed and hear the voice of the black community.
Both Wright and Chambers want to criticize and change the actions of the racist not only whites but people of every race who discriminate against other races. The purpose of the authors writing these autobiographies is similar. Both of the authors want to write and publish their stories so their voices will be heard. Wright especially because he lived in a time where racial tensions were high and blacks were treated very cruelly. Chambers also writes for this reason but she writes more so for insight into a life of an abused child who obtained a goal by standing up for herself.
Which could also be said as Chambers writes for women and especially black women having the opportunity to gain a scholarship and work hard for a personal ambition. Richard Wright and Veronica Chambers write using a similar voice, style, tone, and syntax but they use different diction. Black Boy and Mama’s Girl are both autobiographical, written in first person, introspective, use some free association and comparison and contrast. Both books have a similar a similar tone, being confessional, ironic, and philosophical given the examples and stories the authors tell.
They also use similar syntax, the syntax used by both Wright and Chambers conveys the thoughts of Richard in Black Boy and the thoughts of Veronica in Mama’s Girl, and their observations of the world around them and the situations they are placed in. The writers do differ when it comes to diction. Chambers uses a more modern diction than Wright because of the time separation. Since Mama’s Girl is placed in more modern times and in a different setting, Chambers diction is more modern. I would recommend both books. Richard Wrights Black Boy was unlike any other autobiography I had ever read before.
Even though at times it can be very sad, cruel, and depressing, it shows what it was really like to live in that time period as a black American and all of the hardships one went through. Veronica Chambers autobiography Mama’s Girl was amazing and very moving. It is a testament of a mothers love and dedication and of a strong female figure. She illustrates her thoughts very well and I loved that about the book. I think anyone, boy or girl, any ethnicity or background, above the age of 13 would read this book and like it as long as they were open to opposing views and could handle the violence and racial prejudice.
I really liked Black Boy because of the interesting stories and real life experiences of Richard Wright and I really liked Mama’s Girl for the same reason. I didn’t like very few things about both books. The only thing I really did not like was the violence and how sad their stories could be at these times. Neither book was boring and I would recommend it to almost anyone. Both books are similar and different in setting, lifestyle, and writing style, but each book has the same underlying message of equality, hardships, and trials that one must overcome to reach a goal.