Short Story #232: Silt by Richard Wright

Title: Silt

Author: Richard Wright


Richard Wright.  Image source:
 A family returns to their shack after the river has flooded.  They walk through exploring what is and isn't salvageable.  Their fields are done, most of the animals are gone, and there are few belongings left in their shack.  They discuss what they've lost and how to fix the place in order to make it livable again.  They realize they will need to borrow more money from the landowner (or store-owner; it sounds like the family are share-cropping), which will put them further into debt to which they will not be able to pay in their lifetime.  Just then they discover there was somethings salvaged from the flood, some matches and tobacco.  Just as they determine to go see the landowner, he actually appears.  The father asks for some lenience but the landowner scoffs and tells him of a few folk that tried to run away and were caught by the sheriff.  The landowner insists that he come along and renegotiate their deal since the father needs more goods and though he hesitates, he acquiesces. 


The story says a lot without saying much.  Nature regularly wrecks their ability to make the most of what they have while the landowner does little besides further shove them into debt.  In these conditions, where the family has little but the clothes on their back and the father has little choice but to make himself further indebted to the landowner highlights the problems of many African Americans after the end of slavery and into the early 20th century.  The story reveals an impossible situation that in essence resembles slavery itself.  The man is all but commanded to go with the landowner and the landowner has made it known that he can control people's movements.  It's a sad tale in that regard.  

Short Story #232 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/20/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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