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Racial Criticism

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“And if he were holding his gun in his hand, nobody could run over him; they would have to respect him”. Richard Wright the author of The Man Who Was Almost a Manwas at a good point of his career when he wrote this story. Richard Wright's story was originally part of a chapter for a novel called Tarby’s Dawn. Wright never finished the novel Tarby’s Dawn, but the story The Man Who Was Almost a Man still came up in the different novel called Harper’s Bazaar under the title The Man who was Almost a Man. Although it wasn't until the year 1960 that The Man Who Was Almost a Man was published, and sadly this year was also the year of Wright’s death. In The Man Who Was Almost a Man the main character tries to convince him-self that by buying a gun he is tough. Using cultural criticism readers can analyze Richard’s story through character, relationship and symbolism.
To begin with, Dave is a young man who wishes for people to treat him like an adult, but he acts very immature. In order for him to feel like a man he needs a gun. In man’s eyes, having a gun means power and control. They feel like they can take control over people because of the weapon they posses.”But, Ma, we needa gun. Pa ain got no gun. We needa gun in the house. Yuh kin never tell whut might happen” (5). Dave is trying to convince his mother that he needs a gun in order to protect the family because that is what men do. Dave feels like he will become a man once he owns a gun of his own. “Ah mol enough to hava gun” (1). He believes that he is old enough to own a gun. The character would do anything he can to own his own gun. he continuously tries to convince his mother to let him get the gun.
Continuously, the relationship between Dave and his parent’s isn’t very close. His parents think that Dave is very immature. Trying to be a man is hard for Dave because his parents still treat him like he’s a kid. In his parents point of view, everything Dave does is immature. For example, when Dave brings home a catalog, he’s interested in the book and his parents don’t see the point in him studying the catalog. His father tells him “Boy how come yuh don quit foolin wid tha book n eat yo suppah?” (3). The way his father talks to him shows how he isn’t interested in the things Dave does and just wants him to obey his orders. This also shows how Dave and his father don’t have a close relationship with each other. “Now, ef yuh gonna act a fool over that ol book, Ah’ll take if n burn it up” (3). Dave’s mother also shows no interest in what Dave likes. She threatens to throw away the catalogue that he felt was important to him because it was one step closer to the gun he wanted. Dave’s mother doesn’t understand him and doesn’t even attempt to hear what he has to say. “N*****, is yuh gone plumb crazy?” (5). This shows how the mother feels about her sons interests. She isn’t very understanding and doesn’t know how to deal with things that are out of the ordinary, like her son wanting to own a gun of his own. Dave’s parents don’t understand him and they treat him like a kid.
In the story "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" a gun symbolizes man hood. Dave is a young adult who wants to be treated like a man. Mister Joe is an owner of a store who has a gun and is willing to sell it to Dave. Having a gun makes a person feel in control. For instance, Dave said "shucks, a man oughta have a little gun aftah he done worked hard all day" (3). A gun could be used for protection during this time because at this time whites and blacks weren't close to each other and blacks felt they needed protection. "Yuh bring it straight back t me, yuh hear? It be fer Pa" (6). This shows that owning a gun is a lot of responsibility and involves a mature man to be in charge of owning the gun. Although Dave's mom doesn't think he should own a gun, he believes he is old enought to have one. After Dave manages to convince his mom in letting him buy the gun, an incident occurs. "He burned it at the foot of a tree" (9). Dave realized that he wasn't responsible enough to own a gun because he killed the mule. If he were a real man he wouldn't have killed a mule. Dave freaks out after he shoots the mule and decides to bury the gun because he knew that someone would take it away from him if they saw it. Right then and there he was most likely thinking that he was almost a man and he would probably be a man if he hadn't shot the mule.
All in all, by using cultural/racial criticism readers can analyze The Man Who Was Almost a Man through character, relationship and symbolism. Readers can relate to this story, because it shows the different cultural/racial criticism that is found in life. The story shows how these cultural aspects can relate to every-day life. In conclusion, with the use of cultural/racial criticism readers can analyze Wright’s story through character, relationship and symbolism.





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