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Racial Criticism of The Man Who Was Almost a Man

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Racial elements in The Man Who Was Almost a Man are clearly evident throughout the entire story. The most common contributor is dialogue in the story because almost the entire story consists of discussion between each character. More contributors to the racial theme in the story include the setting and character relationships, since the people and place of the plot are the basics in the short story. The elements of dialogue, setting, and character relationships in The Man Who Was Almost a Man contribute to the racial criticism within the story.
To begin with, the use of language in The Man Who Was Almost a Man contributes to Dave’s difficulty in becoming an adult. Since he is African American, his rights were once very limited and the thought of that still sticks with his kind for many years. The type of speech they use is much different than that of white people. When Dave begs his mother for money for a gun, he says, “’But Ma, Ah wans a gun. Yuh kin lemme have two dollahs outta mah money. Please, Ma. I kin give it to Pa… Please, Ma! Ah loves yuh, Ma’” (Wright 5). This type of dialogue distinctly portrays the black race since they were uneducated and didn’t know how to use proper grammar at the time. Another example of language hindering his ability to become a man is when his mother states, “’Now don yuh try to maka fool outta me, boy! Ef we did hava gun, yuh wouldn’t have it’” (5). When his mother calls him a boy, it seems to belittle his confidence in becoming the man he wants to be. Dave longs to be called a man, but being called a boy diminishes that dream.
Another aspect that contributes to Dave’s trouble with becoming a man is the setting of his life. His family’s social status is scaled much lower than white people’s in any neighborhood. As a result, his manhood has to be earned rather than just received automatically like other white boys. Dave says to his mother, “’Aw Ma, Ah done worked hard alla summer n ain ast yuh fer nothing, is Ah, now’” (5). This line suggests that Dave doesn’t get an allowance, but instead works for his own money. He worked all summer to be able to afford a gun. Although Dave has enough of his own money to be able to pay for one, his mother explains that his father would be terribly upset with her if she let him waste it. This is shown when she says, “’Yuh’ll git in trouble. N ef yo pa jus thought Ah let yuh have the money t buy a gun he’d hava fit’” (5).This shows that the financial state they are in doesn’t allow them to be able to splurge on things they don’t necessarily need; a gun being one of them.
Another factor that plays a part in Dave’s dream of becoming a man is the character relationships within the story. Dave’s parents are strict on him after they find out he shot Mr. Hawkins’ mule. His father threatens, “’N don fergit Ahma lam you black bottom good fer this! Now march yosef home, suh’” (11). This line shows that Dave’s father disciplines him after a wrong doing. This proves that his father is showing his authority to Dave which makes Dave still feel like a boy. Also, the white Mr. Hawkins belittles Dave’s hopes in becoming a man when he says, “’Well, boy, looks like yuh done bought a dead mule! Hahaha’” (10). Mr. Hawkins is also showing his authority when he demands Dave to pay for the mule. Laughing and calling Dave a boy also adds to his failure in becoming a man.
In conclusion, there are many different examples of racial criticism in The Man Who Was Almost a Man which include the type of discussions among the characters, the time period of the setting, and the relationships between each of the characters. These aspects greatly add to the racial criticism in the story, and make it obvious to the reader of Dave’s ethnic background.



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