Richard Wright (1908-1960)
“TheMan Who Was Almost a Man”
Stories based on personal experiences.Alienated protagonists trapped in repressive society.Questions of existential identity.Difficult passage from adolescence to maturity.Study of the production of personality and the arousal of a self-directive being.Rejection of personality that is defined from the outside.
Dave, a poor boy in the South, desperately wants a gun, which a storeowner offers to sell him for two dollars.Daveasks his mother for the money.Sheagrees to the purchase because Dave's father needs a gun.Davebuys the gun and is fascinated by it.Plowingthe fields the next morning, he decides to shoot the gun.Tohis horror, he unintentionally shoots and kills the mule he is working with.
Later that day a crowd gathers to bury the mule and investigates what happened.Davetells the others that the mule died because it impaled itself on the point of the plow.Itbecomes clear that Dave shot the mule, and the crowd mocks him.Davemust pay for the mule with two years of free labor.Thatnight, Dave hops a train out of town, taking the gun with him, telling himself that he is going somewhere where he can be a man.
Dave (17) desperate to be considered a man.Strugglingto assert his identity in the restrictive racist atmosphere of the rural South.Dave is presented with problems such as self-doubt, frustration with his parents, and racial issues.Longing for a symbol of power and masculinity.Dave feels like Mr. Hawkins and those who work the farm with him treat him badly because of his age.Dave fantasizes that owning a gun will win him the respect he craves.
Gun as a symbol of power, maturity, and manhood.“One of these days he was going to get a gun and practice shooting, then they couldn’t talk to him as though he were a little boy.”As a child grows up, he/she wants a sense of power.After he gets a gun, he learns that he needs more than a gun to earn respect.gun.= Power = respectOutcome – ridicule.He is also looked down upon for being a “fool.”
Humiliation: loss of self-respect, state of being reduced to lowliness or submission.Involvesmaking someone feel ashamed or foolish by injuring their dignity and self-respect, especially publically.Accept responsibility for his action, or run away.What does it mean to "accept responsibility for one's actions"?Howshould one do it?Hefinally admits he shot the mule. Isn’t that enough?
How responsible is Dave for his shortcomings?Dave appears to be less responsible for his shortcomings.His poverty is deep and his parents are awful and he has no future.His desire to get a gun so he can become a man is ignorant, but what other recourse does he have?In his environment there is practically no way he could grow up and develop self respect and the respect of others.Dave is treated just like a mule.He's given no responsibility, not even the chance to hold on to part of hisearnings.
Dave doesn't want a gun, he wants to be a man.He kills the mule and though he doesn't realize it, this sets in motion his liberation, his chance to become a man. Like Eve biting the apple.Dave had to kill a mule so that he would not forever be one himself.Mr. Hawkins doesn't think of Dave in terms of a man.Hesees Dave as a mule. If he fires him it would be like shooting his own mule.List all of the insults he receives from his mother and father and from others.
Dave’s parents always chastise him: “Youain’tnothing but a boy.”Dave’s parents are more concerned with how well he is getting along with Hawkins, the land owner, than on what he thinks about things going on in his life.Emphasis in poor families is on behaving well, so that they don’t “get in trouble.”Stoutsville.List all of the incidents where he is treated like a mule.Is escape solution?
Is Dave a man at the end? Read page 2526.What is the meaning of Dave's final remark?Focusing on aspects of Dave’s character, self-image, and experiences, how do you imagine Dave as a man in his 20's? Defend your answer.To what extent do you think Dave's parents and his society are responsible for his behavior? Do they keep him from maturing into a man?At what point (not in the sense of age) in your own life did you feel that you were no longer a boy or a girl, but a man or a woman?
How do your own parents and your society prevent you from becoming a man or a woman?Adulthoodassociated purely with language and sexuality.Preventsexuality and language related to sexuality, and you prevent adulthood.Purity dance.ScrotumAt what age were you permitted to cuss in front (not at) your parents?
How do young boys and girls in our society try to escape the pressure that prevents them from growing up into a man or a woman?Tough question! Is society better off without individuals like Dave? Should they celebrate his departure?Are individuals like Dave better off away from a society like his?