Richard Wright survives a childhood and young adulthood of near-constant suffering. He makes it his mission in life to study people and literature, trying to find meaning in misery. This puts him at odds with almost everyone: his family, his peers, white racists, and even the communist writers who share his outlook on the world. Nevertheless, he overcomes his obstacles and becomes a successful author.
Wright's mother is the only person who truly cares for him during his isolated childhood. In his early years she is far from a perfect parent. She whips him brutally when he makes mistakes, and she stifles his curiosity about racial issues. Even so, she is his most dedicated supporter. When she suffers a series of strokes that leave her mostly paralyzed, he is left at the mercy of relatives who either hate him or do not care about him at all. He sees her as a victim of these relatives, and when he is old enough he takes responsibility for her care himself.
Granny is the person most responsible for the isolation in which Wright grows up. She treats him like an outsider in her home because he does not accept her Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. She also forces him to follow strict rules that prevent him from socializing normally with his peers. Although her actions make him unhappy, they have an accidental benefit for Wright because they keep him apart and prevent him from learning the bitter life lessons that might otherwise stifle his ambitions.