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
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.
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
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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