The Man Who Was Almost a Man

November 15, 2011
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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” (Wright). Richard Wright the author of The Man Who Was Almost a Man was at the top of his career when he wrote this story. 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 appeared although in a different novel called Harper’s Bazaar under the title “Almos’ a Man”. It wasn’t until 1960 that The Man Who Was Almost a Man was published, and sadly this year was also the year of Wright’s death (The Man Who Was Almost a Man). In The Man Who Was Almost a Man the main character tries to convince him-self that through buying a gun he can be man, and escape his inferior racial status. Using cultural criticism readers can analyze Richard’s story through setting, Black-White racial relationships, and dialogue.
First, using racial/cultural criticism readers can analyze The Man Who Was Almost a Man through setting. Readers can infer the social status of the characters by analyzing the setting. For instance, Dave says “Aw, ma, it’s jusa catalog”, and his mother replies by saying “We kin use it in the outhouse” (Wright). Readers can imply that the way the mother wants to use the catalog in the setting of the outhouse represents the families’ social class. When the mother wants to use the catalog as a bathroom paper it shows that the family is of poor social class. Another example that expresses the families’ social class is when Dave wants to buy a gun, but the mother thinks the money should be used for something else, she says, “Ahm keeping the money sos yu kin have cloes t go to school this winter” (Wright). The mother wants to keep the money for clothes and school. From the setting of this detail readers can infer that the family comes from a lower educated class because the mother wants to increase her social class by sending her child to school. Thus, readers can use racial/cultural criticism to analyze the story through the setting.
Second, by using racial/cultural criticism readers can analyze Wright’s story through the relationships of the Black-White races. Through reading the story readers can infer that Dave’s African American culture affects his social class. For example, the author writes, “He felt very confident until he saw fat Joe walk in through the rear door, then his courage began to ooze” (Wright). The way that Dave suddenly lost his courage when he encountered Joe the White store owner, shows the difference of racial relationships. Since Dave is scared readers can imply that he is inferior to Joe and the white race. Another example that shows the relationship of the different Black-White races is the way the character Dave greets Joe, Joe says, “Howdy Dave! Whatcha Want?”, and Dave replies by saying “How ya, Mistah Joe?” (Wright). Dave greets Joe by addressing him formally, while Joe just calls Dave by his first name, in other words Joe holds a superior title. Thus, the difference of racial status is expressed when Dave is being greeted as an inferior to Joe who is of white racial status. In conclusion, readers can use racial/cultural criticism and analyze the story through the Black-White racial relationships.
Third and last, using racial/cultural criticism readers can analyze Richard’s through dialogue. Throughout the story the main character Dave talks with the combination or shortage of words. For instance, Dave says, “Shuck, Ah ain Scareda them even ef they are beggem me!” (Wright). The shortage of words (such as ain for I ain’t or beggem for begging) show that the character lacks proper grammar. In other words, readers can infer that Dave is uneducated due to his broken dialogue. Also, Dave also combines. He says, “hhm of enough to have a gun…Ahm seventeen” (Wright). The combination of words in Dave’s dialogue (such as hhm for I am) defines his social class. Readers can infer that Dave is uneducated and so is his family since he doesn’t know the proper pronunciation of words without combing them. Thus, through dialogue readers can analyze Richard’s story by using racial/cultural criticism.
All in all, by using cultural/racial criticism readers can analyze The Man Who Was Almost a Man through setting, Black-White relationships, and dialogue. Readers can relate to this story, because it shows the different cultural/racial criticism that is found throughout society. The story shows the significance of how these cultural aspects can relate to every-day life. Therefore, with the use of cultural/racial criticism readers can analyze Wright’s story through setting, Black-White relationships, and dialogue.





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