Required to remain quiet while his grandmother lies ill in bed, four-year-old Richard Wright becomes bored and begins playing with fire near the curtains, leading to his accidentally burning down the family home in Natchez, Mississippi. In fear,Required to remain quiet while his grandmother lies ill in bed, four-year-old Richard Wright becomes bored and begins playing with fire near the curtains, leading to his accidentally burning down the family home in Natchez, Mississippi. In fear, Richard hides under the burning house. His father, Nathan, retrieves him from his hiding place. Then, his mother, Ella, beats him so severely that he loses consciousness and falls ill.
Nathan abandons the family to live with another woman while Richard and his brother, Alan, are still very young. Without Nathan’s financial support, the Wrights fall into poverty and perpetual hunger. Richard closely associates his family’s hardship—and particularly their hunger—with his father and therefore grows bitter toward him.
For the next few years, Ella struggles to raise her children in Memphis, Tennessee. Her long hours of work leave her little time to supervise Richard and his brother. Not surprisingly, Richard gets into all sorts of trouble, spying on people in outhouses and becoming a regular at the local saloon—and an alcoholic—by the age of six. Ella’s worsening health prevents her from raising two children by herself and often leaves her unable to work. During these times, Richard does whatever odd jobs a child can do to bring in some money for the family. School is hardly an option for him. At one point, the family’s troubles are so severe that Ella must place her children in an orphanage for a few weeks.
Life improves when Ella moves to Elaine, Arkansas, to live with her sister, Maggie, and her sister’s husband, Hoskins. Hoskins runs a successful saloon, so there is always plenty of food to eat, a condition that Richard greatly appreciates but to which he cannot accustom himself. Soon, however, white jealousy of Hoskins’s business success reaches a peak, as local white men kill Hoskins and threaten the rest of his family. Ella and Maggie flee with the two boys to West Helena, Arkansas. There, the two sisters’ combined wages make life easier than it had been in Memphis. -Wikipedia