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The Man Who Almost Was A Man

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In The Short Story, "The Man Who Was Almost a Man", by Richard Wright the author narrates on the story of Dave, a young, African-American farm laborer struggling in the racist atmosphere of the rural South. The author shows that Dave's fantasy is to own a gun to make him feel more like a man, and how he thinks owning a gun would allow him to stand up to his fellow workers giving him power over them as well as respect from them. Wright then takes his fantasy and shows the bad consequences that come along with having possession of a gun. The behavior that Dave shows when a gun comes into his possession reveals just how much of a man Dave does not become.

As the title suggests, Dave is in a stage between boyhood and adulthood. In various ways, all of the other figures in the story such as Dave's parents, Hawkins, and the unnamed men he works with all threaten Dave's sense of manhood. Dave's problem is that he is almost a man, "Ahm seventeen. Almost a man (Wright 333)". Dave's lack of social and economic power makes him very much aware that he is not quite one yet. Dave's father, a physically powerful adult man, is characterized as something less than a man because he does not have a gun and because of his surrender to the white Hawkins every day at work. Therefore we can see that Wright is suggesting that Dave will never have the chance to fully be a man if he follows the footsteps of his Dad. He must take action to ensure his transition to manhood.

Dave's economic status contributes to his struggle for power and respect. Although he works hard to earn money, he does not have the liberty that comes with financial independence. For example, Dave has to go to his Mom to obtain the two bucks for the gun that he wants. Dave fantasizes that the gun will give him the power that he lacks as a young black farm worker, but in fact, the gun results in further entrapping him in a situation of economic exploitation. Dave does not seem particularly conscious of the fact that he not being offered an adequate compensation for his labor, but his aggression toward Hawkins' property, killing Jenny, the mule, and his thinking about shooting at Hawkins'



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