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The Man Who Was Almost a Man by Richard Wright

“Ahead the long rails were glinting in the moonlight, stretching away, away to somewhere, somewhere where he could be a man” (Wright). The story, “A Man who was almost a man”, was written by Richard Wright around the year 1961; it is about an African American boy and his desire for manhood. Wright was born and raised in Mississippi; growing up he was a victim to racial hatred, and whose education ended at the ninth grade (Notable-Biographies). It is no coincidence that race and even choice of dialogue play an important role in his story. Using Racial/Cultural Criticism, a reader can analyze Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by using the aspects of dialogue, socioeconomic/social status, and the relationship between black and white.


First off, in the story dialogue is manipulated in ways such as word shortening, word combining, and incorrect grammar. The way the characters talk really reflects not only on their culture and setting, but also their education level. It is true that the author, Richard Wright, didn’t get an education past the ninth grade; therefore he has prior experience with not having that great of an education. An example of the Dialogue being used in the story is: “But Ma, please. It ain mine! It’s Joe’s! He tol me t bring it back t im termorrow” (Wright). This quote in the story shows how Dave shortened words such as told, to, and him; as well as misspelling words like tomorrow. Throughout the story the grammar is incorrect and the characters seem to make up all sorts of slang. Another example of poor grammar is: “What yu wan wida gun, Dave? Yuh don need no gun. Yuh’ll git in trouble. N ef yo pa jus thought Ah let yuh have money t buy a gun he’d hava fit” (Wright). When looking into where the story takes place and when, a reader must realize that back then blacks did not receive the best education.


Next, a reader can analyze this story by looking into the character’s socioeconomic and social status, which is based on income, education, and occupation. Dave’s family isn’t financially well off, and the only characters who appear to have a job are Dave and his father. Dave makes his small amount of money plowing the fields for Mr. Hawkins; which ironically after he accidentally shoots the mule, he owes Mr. Hawkins fifty dollars plus two dollars a month meaning that all the money he does make will go back into Mr. Hawkins own pocket. The income of Dave and his family is very small, which isn’t unusual for a black family during this time. The reader gets a hint of their financial state when Dave’s mother gets the two dollars for the gun, “She stooped, turned slightly to one side, raised the hem of her dress, rolled down the top of her stocking, and came up with a slender wad of bills” (Wright). Going along with the socioeconomics of Dave, a reader can also analyze the story using his social status. In both his family and society, he isn’t very high in the social class. In society and his parent’s eyes he is just a young, immature boy; the only difference is that in the society’s eyes he’s also black. In his household it is made clear that his father is the boss and an intimidating character, “He did not want to mention money before his father. He would do much better by cornering his mother when she was alone. He looked at his father uneasily out of the edge of his eye” (Wright). All Dave wants is to be viewed as an equal and feel that he is mature and strong, and for him owning a gun would do that for him.


Lastly, a reader can analyze the story using the relationships between blacks and whites. The setting of the story was in a time when these two races were not equal and blacks were lower class. It was a time when blacks were intimidated by the whites, for example, “He felt very confident until he saw fat Joe walk in through the rear door, then his courage began to ooze” (Wright). Dave, along with almost all blacks during this time, was afraid; which makes sense considering whites were “in charge”. Another thing that affected the relationship between blacks and whites was respect and equality. An example of the desire for respect and equality is: “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). Dave’s mindset is that if he owned a gun, he could stand up to anyone, black or white, and it is empowering to think of a way to be treated equally and get respect from both the blacks and especially the whites.



In conclusion, a reader can analyze “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by using dialogue, socioeconomic/social status, and the relationship between black and white. Readers can truly understand Richard Wright’s story in a greater depth when looking at how the characters speak and how their grammar reflects their education. In addition, socioeconomic and social statuses produce an understanding about Dave’s life which can allow the reader to relate. Lastly, the relationships between black and white plays a major part in the story for it emphasizes how blacks desired and went to great lengths for equality and respect. Overall this story allows a reader to understand culture and race from the point of view of a young man who longs to be a respected individual.











Works Cited
Notable Biographies . (n.d.). Retrieved March 2011, from http://www.notablebiographies.com/We-Z/Wright-Richard.html
Wright, R. (1960). The Man Who Was Almost a Man.



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