The Man Who Was Almost a Man

November 9, 2011
One of the flaws of society that never seemed to be fixed is that no matter the intelligence level of the people there is still racial and cultural discrimination. From the time of slavery in Egypt, to Nazi Germany, to the Civil Rights Movement, there have always been people who believe that they are better than another race or culture. Another example of this discrimination can be found in Richard Wright’s, The Man Who Was Almost a Man. Using racial and cultural criticism, the reader can analyze this piece of literature through dialogue, cultural relationship, and setting and cultural aspect. The story describes the tale of a young, African American boy who is getting older and feels that with age he can automatically do whatever he wants. The boy, Dave, feels that he can only get the respect to do these things if he has a gun. Throughout the story it shows how Dave wants to do things and how the people around him show that that’s not how things are done. It is easy to show this through dialogue in the story.

From the beginning of the story it is eminent to see that they style of dialect is one that is less ‘civilized’ than what is heard today. This may have been a result of a poorly educated society which may explain why Dave thought that through the purchase of a gun he would be recognized as a man. Back then, African Americans were not given the same education as white people. This results in Dave’s lack of education when he goes to the store to buy a gun from the white store owner. He tries to convince the owner that he can buy the gun because he is seventeen. Dave says, “Shucks. Mista Joe, Ahm getting t be a man like anybody else!” (1). He feels that this may be the only way that he will get the other adults to view him as an adult as well. This shows his ignorance because he may be seventeen, but he has not yet reached the maturity of adulthood. Even his family does not see Dave as how he sees himself. Dave gets a smack of reality when his mother goes back on her word for something she promised to him. She says, “Ah don care whut Ah promised! Yuh ain nothing but a boy yit” (6). He may feel like a man, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else has to agree. He is still treated as an ignorant child even by his own race. It is not only racial discrimination on his education, but it is also cultural that children are seen as being ignorant. There may be a lot of the racial differences, but as it was just shown, there are still other components. The cultural effect at that time was just as powerful. It is very well seen through the characters’ relationships with one another. There is a household system of the hardworking father, the stay at home mother, and the learning child. To people nowadays it may seem odd, but it was very common during that time period for something like this to take place.

A good way to see the character relations is to look at them from the stand point of a basic family. In The Man Who Was Almost a Man, Dave’s family is a good example of what an average African American family might have acted like during that time era. There was the father who made all the decisions and usually had the final word, there was the stay at home mother who tried to back up the father’s decisions, and then there were the young and naïve children. Usually the children feared and/or respected their father because of the power he had over the family. Sometimes, to avoid a confrontation with the father over some issue, the children would go to the mother instead. For example, in the story it says, “Longing to muster courage enough to present his case to his mother” (7). Dave felt that his mother would be easier to confront with his problems. The mother figure was seen as being more approachable. When the father was around, it sometimes felt uncomfortable because of the hostile feeling he created. In the story it says, “He looked at his father uneasily out of the edge of his eye” (5). Dale had the problem with the gun he wanted to purchase, and he knew if he talked to his father he may be denied his request. In this case, he wanted a gun and he knew he had no chance of getting one if he asked his father first. There were levels of power that were established in the households, and children were at the bottom. This not only can be seen as a family tradition, but also as a cultural aspect of the society.

The multitudes of cultures that exist in the world have many influences on those who exist around them. Many people act the way they do because of the nature of their childhood or the nurture of those around them based off their cultural beliefs. This is where the famous discussion Nature vs. Nurture takes place. There are some children who often don’t learn all the necessary things they need to learn to go out into the world as successful adults. This may be because of where they grew up or because their parents have not properly raised them. They automatically feel that they can create this wisdom and respect at the exact instant that they feel they have reached adulthood. In the story, Dave feels this way because he has turned seventeen and feels he is an adult and he needs a gun to get the respect that comes with his age. It says, “And if he were holding his gun in his hand, nobody could run over him’ they would have to respect him” (7). The gun was seen as a way of getting a higher social status even though that was not much of a realistic goal. It is not just what one person thinks about how they are as a person because other people have to also recognize it. Unfortunately, there are people that feel other races or cultures do not deserve as much respect and are not seen as fellow human beings. It is evident in The Man Who Was Almost a Man that there was racial discrimination amongst whites and African Americans. It blatantly states, “Them niggers; can’t understand nothing” (1). African Americans were viewed as being an ignorant race and this basic discrimination can be found in the story. White people were raised to view African Americans as inferiors and African Americans were raised to view whites as the superiors. These excerpts show this correlation between the racial and cultural criticism that was present throughout Richard Wright’s short story.

Since the beginning of man there have always been differences between people, whether it is because the color of their skin or the religion that they believe in. People will always find an excuse to demeanor another human being. Using racial and cultural criticism, the reader can analyze Richard Wright’s A Man Who Was Almost a Man through dialogue, cultural relationship, and setting and cultural aspect to prove this type of criticism. Dave shows the ignorance of a young, African American boy in a white society, but he also shows how that society views him as an ignorant boy. Even his own family did not see him as an adult yet. There is virtually no way to change this type of thought by the people who act this way, but that is okay. It is shown through history how as time goes by, people are mixing together no matter who they are or where they come from. No one knows what is going to happen in the future, but it seems like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback