During the Great Depression Richard Wright changed several other jobs. For following the Wall Street crash which ushered in the depression, the volume of mails dropped, Wright's working hours were thus cut back considerably before he finally lost his postal job. He then began work, in 1930, on a novel, Cesspool, about black life in Chicago that was published posthumously as Lawd Today! reflecting his experience in the post office.
In 1931 Wright published a short story, "Superstition," in Abbott's Monthly Magazine, a black journal. But unfortunately the journal fails before Wright collects any money from them. He was also given the opportunity to write through the Federal Writers' Project. so that by the time he moved to New York City, he had written most of the novel Lawd Today, which was published posthumously in 1963.
Christmas comes and Richard works at the post office temporarily, where he again talks to his Irish friend about current events.
When his postal job ends he digs ditches at the Cook County Forest Preserves after which he gets employed in a medical research institute at one of the largest and wealthiest hospitals in Chicago, The Michael Reese Hospital. There he is responsible for caring for the animals used in medical research. He is immediately struck by the racial division set by the hospital authorities. Along with three other black men, Richard is restricted to the basement corridors so as not to allow them to mingle with the white workers. He cleans the operating rooms and the animal cages.
Richard is shocked at the extremely simple and brutalized mind of Bill, a boy of his age, with whom he, worked and who was usually sleepy or drunk.. Unlike the others, including two Brand and Cooke who had been employed at the institute for a longer period of time, Richard takes an interest in what the doctors are doing. One day, one of the doctors leaves a bottle of Nembutal - an anesthetic - out. Out of his usual curiosity, Richard opens the bottle and smells it. Brand pretends that the Nembutal is poisonous and scares Richard by telling him to run or he'll fall dead.
Once, the authorities sent a young Jewish boy to time Richard as he cleans a room. After timing him, the boys calculate how long it will take Richard to clean all the rooms and five flights of steps. From then on, Richard begins to feel like a slave,always trying to work against time.
At the hospital, Brand and Cooke do nothing but feud with each other. One day, the two begin to argue over what year has the last coldest day in Chicago. Cooke pulls a long knife from his pocket and Brand seizes an ice pick to defend himself. A physical battle then ensues between them. Although no one is hurt, the animal cages topple over, letting dogs, mice, guinea pigs and rats run loose everywhere. The four black workers spend the rest of their lunch break trying to sort the animals out, randomly placing mice and rats in their cages, not knowing whether they were the cancerous rats or the ones injected with tuberculosis. None of the doctors notice anything wrong and neither of the workers tells the director about the disaster. Richard notes that because of the way in which the black workers are treated, they have learnt to form their own code of ethics, values, and loyalty.
Meanwhile, the depression grows worse and Richard is forced to move his family into a small dingy rented apartment. There one morning, his mother tells him there is no food for breakfast, and he must go to the Cook County Bureau of Public Welfare to beg for bread. At the welfare station, Richard is embarrassed at first, but becomes aware of the bonding experience happening around him with: individuals sharing their experiences, thus unifying themselves. He leaves the relief station with a new kind of hope: the possibility that a new understanding of life could be given to those he had met there. Richard sheds some of his cynicism with a desire to understand the common black man.
Richard and his family are still plagued by hunger. With the depression in full swing, hunger plagues the entire community as well. But for Richard, the hunger again manifests itself in a hunger for knowledge, not just food. In the medical institute, Richard longs for the education that he sees other white young men receiving. But his questions are ignored with the doctor even scaring him off learning by telling him that his "brains might explode" should he "know too much." Even in Chicago, he is still being denied access to education.
Richard also begins to sense that he is not alone in his loneliness and poverty. At the relief station, he begins to see that there is an entire society that has been rejected by society itself like him. There is strength in numbers, Richard begins to realize. This he realizes when the black workers are trying to fix the mess they have made in the medical institute; Richard realizes that within the black community - among his fellow workers - there existed a separate moral code.
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