The Man Who Was Almost a Man by Richard Wright

March 29, 2011
By xxtmrwntbtrxx BRONZE, Oak Lawn, Illinois
xxtmrwntbtrxx BRONZE, Oak Lawn, Illinois
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments

“Nobody has any confidence. Nobody wants to buy anything and if they do buy anything they're wrong within about ten minutes. It's fairly gloomy,” Richard Wright once said ("Richard Wright Quotes"). This saying fits well into his short story, “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” Dave was a seventeen year old boy who lived in the south and was becoming a man. He thought to show his becoming of a man he should go out and buy a gun. This turns out to be a terrible mistake that costs him two years worth of work. Richard Wright lived in Memphis, Tennessee for most of his childhood (Duffus). During this time he experienced discrimination because of his skin color. This influence is seen in his writing for Dave, the main character, is a black boy who is hard at work to help support his family. Using racial/cultural criticism, a reader can analyze Richard Wright’s, “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by using the aspects of gender roles within a race, aspects of culture specific to race, and dominant race vs. minority race.
First, gender roles within a race can easily be seen which helps to analyze this story in terms of race and culture. When Dave is talking to his mother about getting a gun, he says, “Please, Ma. I can give it to Pa” (Wright). Dave knows that his father is the one who protects and maintains the household. He knows that the men of the house are supposed to hold the responsibility and are to watch over all of the others. Around the same time, Dave also tells his mother, “Ahm almos a man now. Ah wans a gun” (Wright). Dave knows that he is getting older. Since he is getting older, he thinks he should be subject to more privileges. The men are to put in their fair share of work and earn their pay. They also have to make sure everything is right in the household.
Next, aspects of culture specific to certain races are also seen in this story. As Dave is running away after he finds his gun, he looks back and looks at Jim Hawkins’ house. As Dave recalls, he had a “Big, white house” (Wright). Being a white man, Jim Hawkins was expected to be very successful. He was an example of what most white men should be like during this time period. He had a large house, a lot of land, and even his own employees. Before he had thought about running away, Dave thought about what his life would be like if he stayed there. He thought, “Two dollahs a mont. Les see now… Tha means it’ll take bout two years” (Wright). Blacks during the time had very different expectations than whites. They were expected to work hard all day for little pay. If Dave had stayed, he would have had to have worked for two years to pay for the mule he killed.
Last, the aspect of dominant race vs. minority race can be seen in this story. After Dave accidentally shoots and kills the mule, Jim Hawkins says, “Just let the boy keep on working and pay me two dollars a month” (Wright). Whites were the ones who were in charge. Jim Hawkins is controlling Dave’s pay and the time that he works. Blacks were looked down upon during this time. Whites seemed to be able to do anything they wanted and get away with it. When Dave had gone to the store, “he felt very confident until he saw fat Joe walk in through the rear door, then his courage began to ooze” (Wright). Blacks feared the Whites at the time. The white race held all of the power and the Blacks knew that.
In conclusion, “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” is a short story about the hard times of blacks in the south. Some aspects that can be used to analyze this story are gender roles within a race, aspects of culture specific to race, and dominant race vs. minority race. The story of Dave is tragic and holds a lot of emotion. It can also give a lot of insight as to what young blacks went through in the south. Wright was an author who lived through this time and used this writing to get his own story out.
Works Cited
Duffus, Matthew. "MWP: Richard Wright (1908-1960)." The University of Mississippi. 19 Oct. 2007. 29 Mar. 2011. <>.
"Richard Wright Quotes." Find the Famous Quotes You Need, Quotations. 2010. 29 Mar. 2011. <>.
Wright, Richard. The Man Who Was Almost a Man. New York: Harper, 1939.

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This article has 1 comment.

on May. 5 2011 at 12:16 pm
alexsmith1428 SILVER, Oak Lawn, Illinois
5 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Personally I agree with everything written in this story, it was very right on the dot about what this story was about. The writer used the aspects of gender roles, aspects of culture specific to race, and dominant over minority which went great with analyzing this piece of work.

Besides Racial criticism, reader response could be used because a reader may be able to relate to the characters or the situations that took place. For example almost all teenagers want to be respected and viewed as a responsible adult. Also Marxist criticism way work.

Yes I believe I would, the story is interesting, and the writer portrayed it to be, however it isn't the kind of story that really catches my attention.


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