The Man Who Was Almost a Man Essay

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“The man who was almost a man” is one in a collection of eight stories by Richard Wright. In essence, the story is about Dave’s, an African American boy childhood and adolescence. Published in 1961 in a collection of other stories titled Eight Men, the tale focuses on the struggle and determination of Dave. The young farm laborer struggled to assert his identity in the rural South atmosphere dominated by racism. “The man who was almost a man” has been praised for shedding light on a sensitive issue such as racial oppression during this era. This essay will highlight the summary of this story in order to provide a basis for analysis. Consequently, the paper will analyze “The man who almost a man” in efforts to determine how close Dave came to becoming a man.   


The story begins with Dave heading home from a cattle farm where he works, irritated with the way he has been treated. Essentially, Dave was treated like a child and teased by his coworkers, which makes him think of ways to prove to his colleagues that he was a grown man. Dave decides to purchase a firearm, something he knows that will make his peers respect him and stop treating him like a boy. The protagonist goes to a local store owned by Joe instead of going home where looks at catalogues. Joe offers an old pistol for two dollars and also gives Dave a gun catalogue, which he takes at home (Wright 503). Excited about the low price, Dave convinces his mom to give him money with the promise that he will bring the gun home and give it to daddy.

However, after buying the gun, Dave stays out late to avoid giving the firearm to mom; as such, he carries it to work early the next morning. Evidently, Dave is unsure of how to use the gun; when he arrives at work, his boss, Mr. Hawkins gives him an order to plow the field with Jenny, the mule. Since the area was far, Dave is delighted as he will be far from everyone, giving him a chance to practice shooting. Unfortunately, Dave shoots Jenny in his attempt to make a shot; the mule dies despite Dave’s effort to plug the gun hole with damp black earth. In his efforts to escape his mischief, Dave creates a story, which Mr. Hawkins does disagrees with; as a consequence, Dave is told to pay fifty dollars (Wright 504). Such amount of money requires Dave to work for two years; a frustrated Dave gets back the gun and takes a train, never to return home.


From my perspective, Dave did not come any closer to becoming a man considering that he has the whole wrong idea of how to be a man. Although he is eager to gain respect and be seen as a grown up, his decision to buy the gun does not come close to a solution in making him a man. In essence, Dave feels disrespected by both his peers and boss; moreover, his parents do not trust him. It is of the essence to recognize that such mistreatments are despite Dave’s efforts to be hard-working and responsible. Additionally, the author incorporates underlying circumstances such as racism and the struggles of Dave in his life. As a result, Dave becomes desperate to prove to everyone that he is not a kid, but rather a grown man. It is, however, to realize that Dave does not buy the gun with the intention of hurting anyone.

According to Dave, the gun can serve as an equalizer, an aspect that comes out when he says, “Could kill a man…black or white.” (Wright 502) From his point of view, just owning the gun gave him the power where nobody would run over him, but they will have no other choice  than respect him. The author uses this setting to display the emptiness and search for meaning in the life of an individual, and in particular, Dave. In his quest to be respected as a man, Dave learns that there he needs more than just a gun to become a man. Also, he realizes that there is no shortcut in the road to adulthood; of significance is the fact that each choice has a consequence in one’s life. In essence, until the end of the story, Dave did not come any closer to becoming a man; however, he learned valuable lessons that will help him achieve that later.


            Written by Richard Wright, “The man who was almost a man” is an insightful piece as far as a teenager life is concerned. Furthermore, considering that it was published in 1960, it played a significant role in illuminating the issue of racial oppression in the South. Although the protagonist made mistakes, it is evident that he has gained more knowledge on what it takes to be a man. The piece also serves as a resource for teenagers to be responsible and careful in making decisions about life. Ironically, in his efforts to prove to everyone around him that he was a grown-up man, Dave only demonstrated the fact that he was still an irresponsible boy. According to Dave, the weapon was supposed to make him independent and masculine; in reality, it symbolized his struggle in achieving such goals.

Work Cited

Wright, Richard. "The man who was almost a man." The short story: 50 masterpieces (1983):


August 21, 2023




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