Danielle Wehrle Reader Response “Big Boy Leaves Home” “Big Boy Leaves Home” is a story involving a multitude of violence. In the beginning of the story, there seemed to be a power struggle between Big Boy and his friends. They were rough housing with one another until it got out of hand. Big Boy started choking Bobo to the point where his friends were actually fearful for his life. This issue was resolved immediately. Although the boys continued to play-fight, they went on to enjoy the swimming hole. When the woman down by the swimming hole found the boys trespassing on Harvey’s property, more violence unfolded.
When Jim arrived on the scene, he immediately raised his gun and shot Lester and Buck. I find it unbelievable that such racial violence was once tolerated. Although Big Boy and his friends were trespassing on Harvey’s property, it’s very disturbing that Jim’s first instinct was to shoot at the boys because they were black. I feel that Jim’s physical violence resulted from internal violence, like his hatred for blacks. Being raised in the South, at the time of racial intolerance, Jim treated racism as a normal occurrence.
Jim’s wife did nothing to stop him from shooting, so I feel she was probably just as ignorant. The continuation of violence after Jim shot Big Boy’s friends resulted from fear and anger. Big Boy fought for Jim’s gun because he feared for his life, but he also seemed very angry that a white man could get away with killing his friends with no consequences. This doesn’t justify Big Boy killing Jim, but it definitely shows a shift in power. Big Boy was not going to be defeated by a white man that had already killed two of his closest friends. Unfortunately for Big Boy, there were consequences for killing a white man.
A lynch mob set out to hunt and kill Big Boy for his crime. Sadly, nothing was ever mentioned about Lester of Buck again, especially not about the white people. They only cared about Jim because he was one of them. It really bothered me how the people of the lynch mob treated lynching as a sport. They were excited to be a part of hunting for Big Boy and Bobo, and they couldn’t wait to kill them. These people felt it was a major accomplishment to get rid of black people one by one, and the fact that things like this actually happened is sickening.
More violence took place after Big Boy left home to hide in the kiln for the night, so he could escape in the morning. At this point Big Boy seemed to be in survival mode, and he was ready to take down anything that posed a threat to him. He was ready to set out for a new life, and wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of saving his own life. He killed the snake at the kiln because he didn’t want to get bit, and the snack was in his best hiding spot. He feared the dogs were out hunting for him, to help out the lynch mob. When one of the dogs finally approached his hiding spot, Big Boy’s initial reaction was to kill.
If Big Boy was not in fear of losing his life, I don’t think he would have reacted this way. The killing of the dog shows the intense amount of fear that rushed through Big Boy’s body. I think the most traumatizing event for Big Boy was seeing the last of his three friends get killed. The last parts of the story detailed the lynching of Bobo. It was disturbing how excited the lynch mob was. They gathered as if the lynching was a party. The white people not only killed him, but tortured him and didn’t seem to be remotely phased by his screams and suffering.
In the end, I think Big Boy felt guilty for being alive because much of this violence could have been avoided if the boys had just gone to school that day. If the boys didn’t trespass on Harvey’s land, Buck and Lester would have lived. If Jim didn’t shoot Big Boy’s friends, he could have spared his own life. If Big Boy didn’t shoot Jim, he would not have had a lynch mob after him. Big Boy also would not have killed the dog and the snake if he was not so fearful the mob would find him. Bobo would not have been lynched if he wasn’t trying to escape with Big Boy.
Racial violence and inequality were prevalent in this story. The killing of Jim caused a snowball effect leading to more violence. However, if Jim had killed all the Boys instead, I don’t think much would have happened afterwards. During this time period, in the south, it was not out of the norm for whites to kill blacks. It’s terrible that killing any human could be seen as okay. This story painted a vivid picture of events that could have taken place in the deep south, and it definitely helped me better understand the types of violence that took place as well.