The Man Who Was Almost A Man Essay Example
The Man Who Was Almost A Man Essay Example

The Man Who Was Almost A Man Essay Example

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  • Pages: 8 (2055 words)
  • Published: April 8, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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In Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man”, there is only one main character, Dave Saunders, and a handful of secondary characters. Dave Saunders is a seventeen year old, “long, loose-jointed limbed” African-American boy living in what seems like the South, either in Alabama or Louisiana, judging from the fact that the Illinois Central railroad runs through the area where he lives. Dave is struggling with growing up and is trying to achieve a sense of maturity that he is not yet ready for. His idea of being a mature adult is to own a gun, since all the men he works with on the field own one and practice shooting them.

He thinks that if he gets one and shoots with the men, they will accept him as one of their own. Dave is the only round


character in this short story since he is the only character whose thoughts we, the audience, are able to read. By reading his thoughts, we gain insight on his feelings and mental state. Dave seems to be fascinated with brute strength and power, which he sees as the only way to gain status in society. He isn’t a normal type of character looking to find his place in society by being murderous.

Most of those characters know exactly what they are doing and have foresight to the consequences of their actions.Dave is unique because in his mind, owning the gun is a rite of passage straight into adulthood, without any sacrifices normal people make. He lacks any such foresight. As a result of being a round character, Dave is also dynamic. This is evidenced by th

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fact that in the beginning, Dave’s feeling is that acquiring a gun will usher him straight into manhood, but at the end, Dave realizes that it will take a lot more to become a man than just owning a gun, but he still holds the gun as a central part in his future.Who knows what he will do with it, but I can see a life of crime for young Dave Saunders.

Next is Mrs. Saunders, Dave’s mother, who is a flat, static character. The only thing that makes her notable is she is Dave’s voice of reason in the story, which he chooses to disregard. She plays a supporting role in allowing Dave to buy the gun, but it still very much against letting Dave have it.

She undergoes no changes, since she is as much against the gun at the end of the story as she is when Dave pesters her for it towards the beginning.The list of other minor, flat and static characters would include Mr. Hawkins, Joe at the store, Mr. Saunders and perhaps even Jenny the mule. I included Jenny because she is not just a part of the setting, but a victim of Dave’s selfish and immature pursuit of maturity. Plot Design “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” follows the normal plot design of a short story, going through an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and ending in the resolution.

The exposition starts with the first line of the story and runs all the way to when Dave’s mother allows him to get the gun.In the exposition, we learn about what is troubling Dave and what his

plans are to address his problem. He wants to acquire a gun to show the men in the fields that he is no longer a boy. He stops by Joe’s store, where he is offered a gun for $2. He goes home thinking only about the gun. He figures he’d have better luck getting the money from his mother, so he waits for a time when he can get her alone.

After pestering her, she finally gives in, but tells Dave he can only bring it right back. This is where the exposition ends and the rising action begins.The rising action begins with Dave choosing not to bring the gun right back home like his mother told him to. Instead, he stays out until he knows everyone’s asleep, pretending to shoot it the whole while. He hides it under his pillow and when his mother comes in to retrieve it, he lies and tells her he hid it outside and will give it to her in the morning. That morning, he wakes up earlier than everyone and leaves the house with the gun, heading over to Mr.

Hawkins’ farm. Mr. Hawkins is surprised Dave is there so early, but gives him a mule and plow to take to the edge of the forest and plow.Dave is happy because he thinks he will be able to shoot the gun without anyone hearing. At this point the rising action gives way to the beginning of the climax. The climax is the shortest and most intense part of this story.

Dave takes out the gun and gathers the courage to fire it. But he is startled by the

thunderous explosion and the subsequent realization that he shot Jenny the mule on accident. He races to save her life but it is too late and she dies. The climax ends with Dave burying the gun and then walking across the field and trying to think of what to tell Mr. Hawkins.

The falling action begins with the story taking us to when Dave is surrounded by a group of people and is trying to explain what happened to the mule. He tries to lie and say that she went wild and fell on the point of the plow, but when someone notes that the hole looks like it was made by a bullet, he breaks down and tells everyone he accidentally shot the mule. Everyone starts laughing and his father talks to Mr. Hawkins to see what can be done.

They agree that $2 will be taken out of Dave’s pay each month until $50 is paid off for the mule. Dave leaves the scene humiliated.The resolution is the last part of the story. It begins with Dave leaving his home to get the gun because he really wanted to shoot it again. He digs up the gun and shoots off the last few rounds.

He wishes he had more rounds to fire at Mr. Hawkins’ home so that he would see how grown up Dave was. Dave hears a train coming and decides to jump on board, gripping the gun tight, because he feels like it is the key to his future. Setting “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” is set in a rural southern community but is limited to the road between

Dave’s home and Mr.Hawkins’ farm and Joe’s store.

We aren’t given much to work with in terms of setting, which adds to the sense of entrapment Dave feels and what his desire to grow up that much stronger. The time is which this story is set would early 20th century, so during a highly segregated time in the South’s history. There is definitely a sense of segregation, between the black Saunders family and the white Hawkins farm, so no wonder Dave feels so trapped by it all. Point of View This short story is written from an Omniscient 3rd person point of view ince we are given a view into Dave’s head.The narrative in itself is very interesting because at times it is hard to differentiate between the narration and Dave’s thoughts, but it is the vernacular of Dave’s thoughts that helps keep the audience on track.

So in a way, the story is told not only by descriptions of setting and what people are doing from the 3rd person point of view, but also from the 1st person point of view of Dave’s mind. We learn of the underlying issues not through Wright, but through Dave.Wright only offers the setting and small details though his narrative. It is through Dave that we learn about what is bothering him. In other stories that I read with this same point of view, the author usually will add quotations and “he thought” after the character thinks abut something.

Wright probably felt like he didn’t need to do that because he wanted to seamlessly integrate every aspect of the story with less hurdles the audience had to go

through and less words to read before they could get the full understanding of the story.Theme The theme of this story is the struggle of coming of age. Dave is an adolescent boy who has to overcome many hurdles to achieve manhood. He is restless and very impatient and after being made fun of at work by the older men, he sees the possession of a gun as the only way to achieve adulthood. But he realizes that owning a gun actually brings him more trouble than good, which wouldn’t not have been true had Dave figured out that he would have been seen as a man if he has known how to properly handle this added responsibility.

This in and of itself is the irony of the story. But now because of what he did, Dave must repay Mr. Hawkins over the course of two years, so in effect, the gun did bring more commitment and obligation to Dave, which is what truly defines an adult. But being the impatient and restless adolescent that he is, Dave discovers that all he wants to do is escape, instead of being committed. The fact that he decides to leave shows that Dave is not actually ready to become an adult yet and that owning a gun is much more of a burden than he has anticipated.But he sees more good in the gun than bad, so he decides to take it with him when he runs away, which shows that he still truly believes that the gun is his key to becoming a man in the near future.

Evaluation I have read many short stories in my

not-so-long life and have realized that there are three things a short story must do to appeal to me- 1) It should be able to suck me in right from the beginning and keep me interested all the way to the end; 2) The imagery must be good enough so that it triggers my imagination; and 3) It should follow a pretty clear plot design which culminates in an epic climax which I never saw coming.I have to say that from the very first few sentences, this story had me enthralled. I really liked how Wright switched from standard English to dialect because I had to actually sound out what I was reading to understand it. Usually if I don’t understand what I’m reading, I put it away. But in this story, I really wanted to understand what Dave was thinking, so it took some extra effort on my part. And of course, it kept me in through the end.

For a split second I thought he was going to meet the same fate as Paul in “Paul’s Case”, that is, commit suicide, but he didn’t, which relieved me.The imagery was pretty good in this story. I could definitely visualize everything that was going on very easily. And I realized that Wright didn’t actually include a substantial amount of descriptive words, but what words he had were enough to trigger my imagination.

Even though the setting was pretty limited, there was still a sense of imagery- the rural feeling of the South, with its flat fields and forests. I can’t complain about how this story followed the plot design.It started, rose, exploded, fell and resolved

itself, exactly how I like it. Sometimes I do like a long rising action because it culminates and tenses up, but that’s only in thriller or mystery short stories. But in this story, everything followed how it was supposed to.

A climax is what really blew me away. I never expected Dave to shoot the mule on accident. I thought he would somehow hurt himself, but not the mule. And that is what I like most about a good short story- if it is able to take me by surprise.

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