The Man Who Was Almost a Man

By , Oak lawn, IL
Using racial and cultural criticism, a reader can analyze Richard Wright’s The Man Who Was Almost a Man through the main character Dave, the relationship between blacks and whites, and the symbolism of the gun. Dave, being a young 17 year old African- American was feeling all the racial hate towards him. Living in this type of society he was lost. Dave didn’t know what else to do besides lash out. Unfortunately, it took the death of a harmless animal to help a young boy feel authority.

In the first place, in Richard Wright’s The Man Who Was Almost a Man, he states that Mister Joe said “Your ma lettin you have your own money now?”(1). This statement shows that his mother doesn’t think that he is responsible enough to even carry his own money on him. Dave is 17 years old going on 18. He is almost considered an adult legally and his mom doesn’t trust him with the simple responsibly of carrying his own money. At this point he knows that he is being treated like a little kid. Dave feels how unfair it is that he is constantly being monitored. Dave also states “Aw, ma, ah wahs a gun. You kin lemme have two dollahs outta mah money” (5).This statement shows how his mother even controls simple things as what he buys. He is old enough to make his own decisions and he feels that if he had a gun he would be dominate and gain respect from everyone, especially his family. People knowing that Dave has a gun, would make them realize that he is old enough to have such a great responsibility. Dave being a young boy in the 1950’s, just wants a little freedom and respect.

In addition, Richard Wright stresses the difference between blacks and whites in “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Jim Hawkins statement saying “Looks like you bought yourself a dead mule” (1). Jim Hawkins being a white man in the 1950’s, had it much easier rather than an African American. Jim used all of his advantage at this point in time. When Dave killed Jim’s mule, all Jim was concerned about was getting his money back for the animal and making Dave work harder. Jim Hawkins states “Well, you needn’t worry about it Bob. Just let the boy keep working and paying me two dollars a month” (5). The only relationship that Dave and Jim had was business. Jim felt almost as if his friendship to Dave wasn’t necessary. “Shucks mista Joe, Ahm gittin t be a man like anybody else” (1). The importance of this statement is that Dave has enough respect for other people to call them mister but the white people have no courtesy to have the same respect for black people to call them mister as well. Back then, white people were held up so much higher than African-Americans so they didn’t feel the need to have the same respect for them. It was nothing but a struggle to win more rights and freedom. With white people, it just came natural. African Americans were stuck doing hard labor on white people’s small farms for little next to nothing. White people thought that that’s all that black people were good for. When Dave got his gun he escaped reality. He didn’t feel like he was just another African American slave stuck in the 1950’s.

Not to mention that Richard Wright stated that “Also, he was not sure how to fire it” (6). Readers can analyze symbolism with the gun in representation to Dave’s manhood. Although Dave does not know how to fire the gun, he plays around with it. Dave soon finds himself in a situation that he can’t get himself out of. Dave’s curiosity killed Jim Hawkins mule Jenny. Although it was an accident, Dave immediately felt power. Readers can analyze the representation of the gun also by the mother’s statement saying “Ah don care what ah promised! You aint nothing but a boy yit” (5). His mother has n respect for the fact that he is almost a man and can make his own decisions for himself. Dave feels that the gun will bring him independence and people would treat him with respect. Dave hates how everyone treats him like a child. Therefore, having a gun in Dave’s hand will make him feel masculinity and comfort.

In conclusion, using racial and cultural criticism, a reader can analyze Richard Wright’s The Man Who Was Almost a Man by using the aspects of race and culture that a young African American boy experienced during the 1950’s. Through all of the struggles, Dave made it out a man.





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