Racial and Cultural Criticism from the story "The Man Who Was Almost a Man"

November 9, 2011
“Waal, Ahma buy a gun.” (Wright). Richard Nathan Wright was born September 4, 1908 in Roxie, Mississippi to his parents Nathan and Ella. Wright was entering school in 1918, but was forced to leave a few months after he entered. He went to New York for the American Writer’s Congress, and brought up the topic of isolation of Negro writers. In 1937 he became a writer for the newspaper, the Daily Worker. The author Richard Wright shows racial criticism in the story “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by using symbol: The gun, setting, and Character relationships: Black-White.
To start off the topic of racist criticism the symbol that Wright used as an example of this was the gun. The first example of this is, “I 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). This quote explains how when Dave was holding the gun he felt like he was a man and that people should be afraid of him. While holding the gun Dave felt like he could be invincible because everybody would respect him. When he wasn’t holding the gun, he tended to act like a child would which really did show in some points of the story. Another example of this was, “Ah didn’t know Ah wuz gittin up so early, Mistah Hawkins. Ah wuz fixin t hitch up ol Jenny n take her t the fields” (Wright). This quote is talking about how Dave feels he can lie to Mister Hawkins because he has a gun now. He wanted to go and use that gun in the fields to see how great it felt to shoot the gun out into the fields. When he had the gun he thought that he was able to be just as equal to Mister Hawkins as he was to other plantation owners.
Next, Wright expressed racial criticism by using an obvious setting with many different cultural aspects. The first example of this is, “Whut’s the use talkin wide em niggers in the field?” (Wright). The quote explains how the racial tension between whites and black people during this time period was terrible. There was no respect between the two races then, and there still isn’t that much now these days. The plantation owner felt that all of his workers during this time period were pretty much useless to him in exception to the work that they do for him. The way that Wright put this story in the South was another good way to show cultural aspects of the African Americans, because most of them lived in the south during this time period. Another example of the setting would be, “He hitched Jenny to a plow and started across the fields” (Wright). This quote really explains the setting of this place and allows the reader to understand that they are working on a plantation. It also talks about how during this time period a lot of colored people lived in the south and worked on plantations still. People were still very racist and the south was where all the slaves had come from, so there was no respect down there.
Finally, Wright used racial criticism in this story by adding very unique character relationships that would happen anytime. The first example of this is, “Howdy, Dave! Whutcha want? How yuh, Mistah Joe?” (Wright). This quote shows the relationships between colored people and the white people in the south during this time. The way that Joe was talking to Dave was showing that he had a little respect for him. The way that Dave spoke to Joe, showed that Dave had a lot of respect for him by calling him Mister Joe. This was something very key during this time period because without good relationships between the races there would be a lot of problems. Another example of this is, “Say, if you wanna buy a gun, why don’t you buy one from me? I gotta gun to sell” (Wright). It is understood that the Joe and Dave get along pretty well if Joe is offering to sell Dave a gun for only two dollars. This is a very important part of the story for character relationships because it shows that Joe trusts that Dave will be smart enough to own a gun. This also shows a lot of trust allowing him to buy the gun, because Dave could’ve just taken the gun from Joe once it was bought, and shot him.
Using racial/cultural criticism, the reader can analyze Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” through symbol: the gun, setting, and character relationships: black and white. People can learn from this story that there was a lot of racial tension going on during that time and it was key to this story. Today there is still quite a lot of racial tension, even though there are no more slaves allowed which shows that there is still a problem. The significance of this story shows that the racial tension in our country today needs to be solved so we can all get along. Without racism our country can get better together and stop a lot of violence and murders because of it.

Works Cited
Wright, Richard. The man who was almost a man. n.d.





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