Richard Wright's The Man Who Was Almost a Man
The Man Who Was Almost a Man is a fictitious short story about an uneducated black boy's quest to become a man. Growing up in the early 1900's was a very hard task for most black people. The lack of education was one of the hardest hills they had to overcome to
make it in a world dominated by whites. The story centers upon one 17-year boy who has
very low self-esteem caused by his peers. He believes that owning a gun will gain him respect with others and thus make him a man. The title of this short story has several different ways of being interpreted because the time and atmosphere in which it was written. The short story was written in first person narrative, which gives a graphic account of the personality of the character Dave. The short story is also written in a dialect of an uneducated black boy which gives the reader the feel of what is was like
to be that young man back in the early 1900's.
The stories title The Man Who Was Almost a Man holds many different meanings to how Dave
must have felt back in those times. Dave's struggle was man versus society in an era where his skin color meant more than his actions. He was unable to interact with the
white society and was outcast by his peers because of his age. He believed at this time in his life that being a man was the more important than life itself. Buying a gun and learning to shoot was his solution to becoming a man. This was not the case though. The first time he fired the gun it numbed his hands and fell to the ground. He also shot Mr. Hawkin's mule, which he was unable to cover up. Now everyone would know what he had done which would give his peers a bad impression of him. He would not gain their respect, nor would he be able to socialize with them.
Wright's stories of helpless or long-suffering blacks victimized by societal and individual white brutality mark the beginning of a new era in black fiction, and even his least important pieces contain unforgettable scenes and characters that burn their way into the reader's consciousness (Brignano 20). He would not be a man in their eyes or his own. Most of the story focuses on Dave trying to buy a gun so he can become a man. The gun symbolizes the power Dave is trying to obtain. He will stop at nothing to obtain his manhood. He talks his mother out of money, which was going to be used to buy
clothes for the next school year.
Dave throws his morals aside and cons his mother out of the money by telling her that his father needs a gun in the house. This action shows how far Dave will go to obtain what he believes will make him a man. After buying the gun, he then begins his next
endeavor. Instead of coming straight home, he waits to make sure that his parents are in bed to insure no confrontation. Nevertheless, his mother was prepared and questioned him at bedside. He again lies to her and tells her the gun is hidden outdoors. Wright then describes in detail what Dave...