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I believe The Man Who Was Almost A Man is an example of imprudent youth. The story is of a boy who wants a gun for all the wrong reasons. His thoughts are of manhood. He associate a gun with manhood, yet fails miserably to understand the concept of manhood or the responsibility that?s closely connected with it.

On the surface, the message of the story is that of a stupid, deceitful, unkind, violent, black boy with dreams of becoming a man with all its grandeur. As is seen in the text when the protagonist witness men in the field shooting their guns. The protagonist, known as Dave, decides promptly that he will purchase a gun and impress the men with his skill in handling the weapon (655). We see that Dave wishes dearly to gain the respect and power so closely associated with manhood. This man who is almost a man, deserves to be called ?boy? at 17 and forever. Dave is not ready to be a man, he is not ready to except the responsibility allied with the designation of being a man. The story ends with a kindly white man being cheated out of $50 and the protagonist, the black boy-man, riding off into the night with nothing but anger, a gun and a long track record of poor judgment.

Upon further examination, Dave appears to be less responsible for his shortcomings. His poverty is deep and his parents are awful and he has no future. 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, given no responsibility, not even the chance to hold on to part of his earnings. This is seen when Joe, the store owner ask ?your ma letting you have your own money now??(656).

Dave doesn?t want a gun; he wants to be a man. This is a natural, healthy desire that hasn’t yet been beat out of him. The fact that he thinks a gun will do the trick is ignorant, but the only solution his environment can have him imagine. Dave?s belief that having a gun will make him a man is ridiculous and repellent but as the story turns out, his pursuit of having a gun is his ticket out of town, his only hope for becoming a man.

At first glance, it looks like Mr. Hawkins is just a fairly nice fellow. However, when Dave inexplicably arrives early for work, this nice fellow just gives him more work to do (659). In a way, that?s what you?d do with a beast of burden that exhibited extra energy and willingness to work. When it is revealed that Dave indeed shot the mule, Mr. Hawkins isn?t emotional. He shows no sign of disappointment with Dave–he doesn?t see him in those terms. He sees Dave as a mule. Therefore if he fires him it would be like shooting his own mule. Thus the point is to keep Dave working. Only now with out the pay he never sees. Making it that much harder to gain respect from his self or others. Dave senses this as well. That?s why he talks about taking a goodbye shot at Mr. Hawkins ?white house? to put a little fear in him (663). At least he would be reacting to him with a little human emotion and the fear would serve him right.

The gun, to Dave, symbolizes, and even represents, manhood. Dave, of course, procures his desired weapon and finds himself burdened by the restitution he must pay for murdering the mule. Interestingly, the mule symbolizes true manhood, responsibility. Dave, not ready to grapple with this new responsibility decides to run away. Dave is fortified with the power and manliness that he sees in the gun. Yet it is this same object, which gives Dave the courage to face the unknown. In the moments preceding his heroic escape, Dave?s stomach quivers while he has his hand on the gun. Just as Dave is about to jump on the train; ?he gripped the gun tightly? (663). Finally, Dave jumps onto the train and, ?he felt his pocket; the gun was still there?(663). An interesting question to consider, is would Dave have stayed on the train had he dropped the gun? Probably not, because we see Dave reassures himself, periodically, before jumping on the train by making sure he has the gun.

In most stories the protagonist struggle with their situations and their conflict creates light along with the heat. They learn a lesson, they have a realization, and they take a step forward. In this story, the protagonist is illustrated fumbling through life with frustration. The only solid life altering decision he makes, is with his eyes closed. He?s a liar and comically stupid, nothing more than a mere angry confused black boy with a gun and no chances for a future.


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