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A Man Who Was Almost a Man

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The short story “ A Man Who Was Almost A Man” by Richard Wright is about a young man named Dave who struggles with being able to grow up and become a man. Dave has a hard time growing up and becoming a man because of his mother and his father. His mother realizes that he is not fully prepared to take on the task that a man would have to perform so she keeps him sheltered. Dave believes that if he gets a gun that the will be recognized as a man. Dave has the concept of being a man misconstrued. Dave’s lies indicate to the people around him that he is in fact not prepared for the responsibilities of manhood. Throughout the story, Dave tries to flip the truth in his favor so that he can buy the gun, by telling his mother that it was his father .for example, he convinces his mother to give his two dollars to buy the gun. He doesn’t follow through on his promise to his mother to give her the gun after he bought it. Instead he continued to lie. Like a child, he fails to realize that lying won’t protect him but only bring more problems. Being a man is not about recognition or power, but it is about setting standards and living up to life’s expectations.

This short story has two major themes. The first theme that I would like to analyze is the search for power. Dave feels like he is trapped in a society that takes his personal and financial power from him. He sees his life as abused and humiliated. He is forced to obey his parents, work as a field worker who never receives his pay, and the other field workers always ridicule him. The feeling of being degraded by his cultural society came form the different forces that keep him from achieving his goals and pursuing his dreams. The idea of owning a gun is a way for Dave to become manly and powerful quickly. He feels that having a pistol in his hand with give him power and control over others. This sense of power lasted until he killed his boss’s horse named Jenny. Jenny’s death put a major hold on his future because he had to repay his boss Mr. Hawkins. I think that Jenny’s death is an unconscious way that Dave could strike back at Mr. Hawkins. He may be lashing out at the society that he lived in that he is excluded from because of the color of his skin. The second theme that I would like to analyze is the coming of age struggles. Dave has to overcome many hurdles to become a man. He is very impatient, consistent, and intimidated by the men he works with. Dave quickly realized after getting the gun that having one caused more problems and brings more responsibility. Having a pistol would have transformed Dave into a man if only he had been able to handle the consequences and responsibility like an adult. Because he had to work for two years to pay Mr. Hawkins back for killing Jenny the gun brings Dave a lot of commitment and obligations, which are the main characteristics of manhood.
The gun represents power and independence. This is what Dave desperately wants. Dave dreams about shooting at Mr. Hawkins house, which displays that the killing of Jenny has taught him nothing. This made him want power and independence even more. In the end Dave realized that he was really running away from manhood instead of embracing it and its baggage. When realizing that owning a gun is more work than he expected he decides to run away. This puts him even farther away from manhood. Still thinking as a child he takes the gun with him, not learning his lesson, and possibly creating problems for himself in the future. Dave shouldn’t have rushed growing up. Being that he ran away immaturely this can open the door for many other influences to take control over his life. He should have handled his responsibilities and suffered the consequences of both his boss and his parents. By doing these things he still didn’t accomplish what he initially set out to do. He continued being the laughing stock of the field and the childish boy of the family.

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