The Man Who Was Almost A Man Response
The Man Who Was Almost A Man by Richard Wright is a coming of age story about 17 year old black field worker Dave Saunders. Dave longs to be a man. He wants to be free to run his own life instead of having to work for Mr. Hawkins and have his pay taken up by his parents. He wants to be regarded as an adult instead of being called a little boy everywhere he goes. Dave believes that having a gun will automatically make him the man he wants. Unfortunately, Dave is sadly mistaken. The gun only gets him in more trouble than he has bargained for.
The Man Who Was Almost A Man is a story full of powerful symbolism that deeply relates to human existence no matter what culture one is from. At one point or another all humans have to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. Within every child there is a longing to be respected and to have power and control over one’s own life. Dave falsely believed that this power and control would come from a gun.
The gun is symbolic of whatever one places their adulthood in. In American culture, one of the possessions that transitions a child into adulthood is a car. Cars symbolize status, wealth, and power in our culture. One can most likely think of someone they know thats whole identity is wrapped up in a car. Also, it is interesting to note that the top killer among american teenagers is car accidents. The transition from childhood to adulthood is deadly.
In addition to the gun being symbolic, the mule is also symbolic. It symbolizes Dave himself. This symbolism is even recognized by Dave himself on pg. 2248 when he says, “ They treat me like a mule, n they beat me.” He believes that all he does is toil like Jenny, yoked to a plow with little hope of reward, escape, or becoming something better. The mule also represents commitment and responsibility, hallmarks of adulthood that Dave is still unwilling to accept. He wants only the freedom that he imagines adults have without any of their obligations. Instead of Dave becoming a man through owning a gun and killing anyone black or white he only ends up killing his own childhood which is symbolized in the death of Jenny.
The fact that Dave was a child instead of man is apparent within the story. First of all, thinking that owning something will make you more of a man or woman is the thought process of a child. Secondly he is childish enough to think that twisting the truth won’t hurt him in the long run. We see this twisting of truth on pg. 2244 we he convinces his mom to give him two dollars for the gun because he told her that it would be for pa. He does not fulfill this promise. We also see him lying after Jenny is killed he first says that Jenny fell on the plow and hurt herself. Then, after the truth comes out about him killing Jenny he still lies to his father about where the gun is. He lies and says he threw it in the river. This lying is one of the most apparent marks of his childishness.
Dave Saunders clearly looks absolutely foolish in this story. Why would he think that owning a gun would make him a man in the first place? Why would he not trust his mom to know what’s best for him? Before judging Dave too harshly think back to a time where you thought owning something would make you cooler. Where you did anything in order to obtain it. All of us at some point have been a man who was almost a man.