A Rascial/Cultural Critique of The Man Who Almost a Man

November 9, 2011
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“The first movement he made the following morning was to reach under his pillow for the gun. In the gray light of dawn he held it loosely, feeling a sense of power. Could kill a man with a gun like this. Kill anybody, black or white. And if he were holding his gun in his hand, nobody could run over him; they would have to respect him.”(Wright). Richard Wright was an African-American author of controversial novels, short stories, and non-fiction. His literature was mostly about racial themes, especially those involving the plight of African-Americans during the 19th century. His work redefines discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century. The Man Who Was Almost a Man is about a young African-American boy named Dave, who wants to be powerful like all the other men he works with so he wants to get himself a gun. He knows his father will not let him wasted money for a gun but he begs him mother to let him get it. His mother allows him to get the gun but instructs him to bring it home as soon as he buys it and give it right to her. Dave gets the gun but instead of giving to his mother like he promised he keeps it under his pillow and the next day takes it with him to work. He does some work but then tell the mull to stop so he can shoot the gun. He doesn’t know how to shoot a gun so he closes his eyes and points the gun away from him. Dave ends up shooting the mull and his boss makes him pay for it. Dave doesn’t have the money to pay for it so all his pay checks will go to pay for a dead mull so he runs away from home. Using racial/cultural criticism, the reader can analyze Richard Wright’s The Man Who Was Almost a Man through the character Dave, setting, and Black-White and family relationships.
To begin with, the characters throughout the story The Man Who Was Almost a Man were very uneducated. The character Dave combines all of his words whenever he talks. Dave said, “Whut’s the use talkin wide m niggers in the fields? Them niggers; can’t understan nothing.”(Wright). Dave was talking to his mother about the men that he works with in the field. He says that the men he works with are dumb and can’t understand anything that’s going on. The character fat Joe combined some of his words when he talked throughout the story The Man Who Was Almost a Man. Fat Joe said, “Whut you planning on buyin? A gun? Whut you want with a gun?”(Wright). Fat Joe was talking to Dave about guns. Dave wanted to get a gun because he wants to be concerned a man and the only way he thinks he will be a man is if he gets himself a gun.

As the result, Dave’s family doesn’t have much, they are concerned in society as a poor family and they don’t have much money. Dave’s mother is a stay at home mom who cleans and cooks dinner for her family. The only people in the house that work is Dave and his father. Dave’s mother said, “Yeah, but ain no usa yuh thinking bout throwin nona it erway. Ahm keepin tha money sos yuh kin have cloes t go to school this winter.”(Wright). Dave’s mother is worried about money being spent foolishly. She wants to save the money that Dave works for so he would have new clothes for when he goes to school in the winter. Dave wants to buy a gun so that he could have the power of a man. He feels that once he gets his own gun that he will finally be a man. Dave said, “mebbe ma will lemme buy one when she gits mah pay from ol man Hawkins. Ahma beg her t gimme sone money. Ahm ol enough to havea gun. Ahm seventeen. Almost a man.”(Wright). Dave is trying to convince his mother to let him use the money that he has been working for to buy himself a gun.
For this reason,
the character Dave faces black and white relationships with fat Joe. He also faces family relationships with his father and his mother. Dave deals with being scared of his father and not being able to have a close relationship with him. Dave says, “He did not want to mention money before his father. He would do much better by cornering his mother when she was alone. He looked at his father uneasily out of the edge of his eye.”(Wright). Dave doesn’t want to mention money in front of his father because his father will shoot down the idea of him getting a gun. His mother will give in to Dave because she and Dave share a stronger relationship then Dave and his father. Dave deals with being scared of the gun store manger fat Joe because fat Joe is a white man. White men have a greater authority over the colored men. Dave said, “He felt very confident until he saw fat Joe walk in through the rear door, then his courage began to ooze.”(Wright). Dave was confident and ready to ask fat Joe for any guns that were being sold but once he saw fat Joe walk thru the door of the store his confidence level began to decrease because white men have more power without a gun then colored men and Dave was scared that fat Joe wouldn’t sell him the gun because he didn’t want Dave to have any power as a colored man.
Therefore, using racial/cultural criticism, the reader can analyze Richard Wright’s The Man Who Was Almost a Man through the character Dave, setting, and Black-White and family relationships. Anyone who reads The Man Who Was Almost a Man will learn that going against what a parent ask of you will only make matters worse in the end. The story The Man Who Was Almost a Man children need to understand that their parents are only doing what’s best for them in the long run. Parents try to teach their children life lessons and help them prepare for their futures as adults. Children will realize once they get older that their parents are always right in the end.





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