Racial/Cultural Criticism of The Man Who Was Almost a Man

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“You ain’t nothing but a boy…” (2). Imagine seeing an adult and watching them being treated as if they were still a kid. No one respects them because they still see that person as if they were still a small child. In the story, The Man Who Was Almost a Man a teenager named Dave is begging for respect. His parents and superiors treat him as if he was still a boy. Dave wants a gun so he can get respect. He thinks that if he had a gun then no one would ever treat him like he was a kid. He gets a gun for his father, but he doesn’t give it to his father. He ends up getting into a lot of trouble. Using racial/cultural criticism, the reader can analyze Richard Wright’s The Man Who Was Almost a Man through character, symbolism, and character relationships.
The main character in this story is Dave. Dave is a seventeen year old black adolescent. Dave thinks he is old enough to have respect. He sees himself as almost a man. Most seventeen year olds would. He is desperate to gain respect. In the story he states, “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” (1). He wants respect so badly that he would kill for it. He can’t stand the fact that everyone thinks he is still a boy. Seventeen year old males feel that they are men and their parents belittle them. Dave is in that position. He has a job and he doesn’t even get his own money. Dave’s parents see the money as their money. Dave has no access to his money. Dave’s mother says, “Ahm keeping that money…” (5). Dave’s mom just took his money without even caring if he wanted to buy something with it. He worked hard to earn that money and he can’t even use it. Nowadays parents let their kids keep the money they earn. Teenagers have access to their money and use it for anything. It teaches them how to regulate their spending.
The gun that Dave buys is a symbol for respect. In Dave’s eyes the only way he can gain respect is to have a gun. When he first got the gun he felt powerful. “In the gray light of dawn he held it loosely, feeling a sense of power” (6). Dave thinks that no one can disrespect him if he is pointing a gun at them. No one would want to mess with Dave if he was about to kill him. He felt superior to everyone with the gun. However, he needs to gain respect. People don’t just automatically get respect when they have a gun. Dave should have been mature about having the gun. He should have given it to his father. “Could kill a man with a gun like this. Kill anybody black or white” (6). Before anyone can use a gun, they need to learn how to use it. In order to have respect, they need to learn how to gain it. Respecting someone out of someone’s own will is different than respecting someone because they are afraid of them. The respect out of fear isn’t respect. People just know that they can’t say anything bad to someone who has a gun because they don’t want to get shot. To earn respect takes work. First thing Dave should have done is respect the relationships that he has with his family.
Dave’s relationships with his parents are strange. Dave works hard for money that he isn’t allowed to spend. His parents take his money and use it for their own needs and wants. His parents treat him like he is still a six year old boy. He should have the right to use his money. He worked hard for it. “He did not want to mention money before his father”(4). His father is very hard on him. Dave is so scared of his father that he didn’t want to mention money. The money that he earned. His father doesn’t want to give him any responsibility over money. He doesn’t trust Dave because he feels he is still a child. Dave can’t learn how to be responsible with money if he can never use it. His parents put him down. In the story his mother says, “Where yuh been, boy?”(3). His mother is acting like he was out doing something bad. His parents don’t trust him. They have no respect for him. The way his parents treat him is showing him that he is irresponsible. They don’t encourage Dave to be more. To try to get a good job. They are interfering with his potential success.
Through racial/cultural criticism, the reader can take Richard Wright’s The Man Who Was Almost a Man through character, symbolism, and character relationships. The story wraps itself around respect. How does one gain respect? People want an easy way to respect. They don’t want to work towards it. Dave was the same way. People would kill for respect. Dave did a very stupid thing because he was tired of being disrespected. Everyone should learn from his mistake. There is no easy way to respect. If one tries to rush it bad things happen. So if everyone is patient then the world will be better off. This was proven through symbols, character, and character relationships.





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