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The Man Who Was Almost a Man

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Racism has existed throughout human history. One may have hatred toward another because of their origin, nationality etc. Due to the character’s race and age, Dave was without a doubt treated unfairly. Using Racial and Cultural criticism, a reader can analyze the character and dialogue in “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by taking a closer look at the character’s relationships and setting.“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” is a short story written by Richard Wright. David Saunders is the main character who is 17 years old and according to different characters in the story, he’s not a man. Dave decides to buy a gun, thinking that owning one would make him feel more self-confident and people would then look at him differently. After using his money on a “useless” object, he ended up killing his boss’s, Jim Hawkins, mule. He tried thinking of excuses but people knew he was lying and they began laughing. It made him really upset so he decided that he was going to get his gun back and run away.

To begin with, Wright used two different dialects in the story to make it more unique. Dave and his parents would often times combine their words, which made it more difficult to read. Although their dialogue was hard to understand, it gave the reader a clear image of what the characters look like while they’re talking. For example, “Now don yuh try to maka fool outta me, boy! Ef we did hava gun, yuh wouldn’t have it!”(Wright 5). By reading this sentence one can have a clear image of Dave’s mom giving him a lot of attitude after finding out he wanted to buy a gun. On the other hand, Joe and Mr. Hawkins used more typical, standard English. One of the reasons why is because back in the early twentieth century, Blacks didn’t have the same opportunities as Whites. Their education levels weren’t as high, causing them to write, and talk differently. Dialogue also shows the difference in how they talk to each other. “You ain’t nothing but a boy. You don’t need a gun,” (Wright 2). The way he said that phrase shows how Whites treated Blacks. They didn’t treat them with much respect. The reader can notice how frustrating it is for a young kid like Dave to have a normal life with as many opportunities as a White person. He worked at a plantation and without escape; he would live the rest of his life just like his father whom just worked long hours to support the family.

This short story is set in a small, rural, southern community in the earlier twentieth century. The town was really small, and took place mainly in Dave’s home, Joe’s store down the road, and Mr. Hawkin’s farm. That pretty much shows Dave’s options when it came to going outside of his home. The two places, Mr. Hawkin’s farm and Dave’s house, signify the rich and the poor as well as the Blacks and Whites. Hawkins was White and had his own farm, where Dave would work long hours during the day. He was limited to buying what he wanted and had to use his mother’s permission for most things, such as the gun. His biggest concern was being called a boy. Dave was 17 and wanted to be a man although others, such as Joe, called him a boy. That is the main reason why he wanted to buy the gun thinking it would be a threat for others not to treat him like a young child. It’s clearly stated when the narrator wrote “One of these days he was going to get a gun and practice shooting, then they couldn’t talk to him as though he were a little boy,” (Wright 1). Age is what was discriminated against in “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” and that is really similar to discrimination against race.

Dave didn’t seem to have a close relationship with neither of his parents. His mother gave him a lot of attitude most of the time. An example of that was when he came home for dinner, “’Yuh git up from there and git to the well n wash yosef! Ah ain feedin no hogs in mah house!’ She grabbed his shoulder and pushed him. He stumbled out of the room, then came back to get the catalogue,” (Wright 3). His own mother treated him with not much of respect, although it seems as if she cared for him a little more than his father. Dave’s father seemed like a real bitter and tough man. His own son was afraid of him. For example, “N Pa says he’s gonna beat me … He remembered other beatings, and his back quivered,” (Wright 11). According to this quote, one can tell the character experienced real bad beatings in the past. As far as White and Black relationships, the characters in the story were not as brutal as they could’ve been. They still talked to each other like normal human beings. The only big differences were where they lived and how educated they were. Dave’s family didn’t have a huge white house like the Hawkins and their language was a little more difficult to understand.

To sum this up, people shouldn’t be discriminated against over race, sex, gender, or even age. Dave didn’t deserve to be treated like a boy. He was 17, he was able to take care of himself, and he worked in the fields for a long time which made him believe he deserved to own a gun after a day’s hard work. Dialogue, Setting, and Character Relationships were all noticeably described well throughout the short story. As of today’s society, people are still being discriminated against, just not as cruelly as they were during the 1920’s. It’s important for us to know that everyone should be treated equally no matter who you are, where you’re from, and what you do.



Work Cited

Wright, Richard. “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.”





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