The Man Who Was Almost a Man-Analysis

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Criticism – “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” Sarah Madsen Hardy “Shucks, a man oughta hava little gun aftah he done worked hard all day,” muses Dave, the protagonist of Richard Wright’s short story “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” A man ought to have a little gun. Throughout the story, Dave, who is almost but not quite a man, never wavers in this conviction that a gun will make the difference and signal the manhood to which he aspires. In this sense, Dave provides an interpretation of the significance of the gun, the story’s central literary symbol. Armed with a gun, Dave believes that he will no longer be scared. He will be powerful and respected. However, through both plot and narration Wright is careful to show that Dave is naive and misguided in this belief. For one, Dave is childish in his strategy for getting a gun. “Mebbe Ma will lemme buy one when she gits mah pay from ol man Hawkins,” Dave speculates, sounding every bit a boy as he resolves, “Ahma beg her t gimme some money.” He is childish when he tries to solve the problems that ensue after his mishandling of the old revolver, attempting to plug the bullet hole he has shot in the mule’s side with dirt and telling a “story he knew nobody believed” about how she died. The story is crushingly sad. Dave makes a bid for more respect only to inspire shame and humiliation. He ends up further entrapped in a situation that made him feel diminished—something less than a man and also, perhaps, less than a person. The symbol of manhood in which Dave has invested so much—both financially and emotionally—fails him. This would seem to be proof that a gun does not make a man after all. Is Wright really debunking the idea that a gun can make the difference between being almost and fully a man? Even after it leads to Dave’s humiliation and financial ruin, the obsolete weapon has an almost magical power in his

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