The Man Who Was Almost a Man | Study Guide

Richard Wright

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The Man Who Was Almost a Man | Quotes


He was going to get a gun ... then they couldn't talk to him as ... a little boy.


In the opening scene the narrator immediately establishes Dave Saunders's motivation for obtaining a gun. He believes that a gun will force those around him to respect him as a man. The story announces itself as a possible coming of age story. However, characters usually grow and learn a vital lesson in coming of age stories, but Dave will miss the point of the lesson he is to learn.


Lawd knows yuh don need no gun. But yer pa does.

Mrs. Saunders

This quote illustrates how Mrs. Saunders dismisses Dave's need to be treated as an adult. When she says that his father needs a gun, she shows how she thinks of Dave as a boy and treats him like one too.


Could kill a man with a gun like this. Kill anybody, black or white.


Dave is obsessed with the power the gun brings to him. The idea that he can kill with it reinforces that no one can doubt his manhood or treat him like a boy if he has a gun. This statement further develops the theme of racial tension, since Dave feels that the gun raises his social status to equal with whites.


He did not quite know what had happened. He ... stared at the gun as though it were a living thing.


When Dave accidentally shoots Jenny he has an almost out-of-body experience. Shooting the gun was supposed to prove his maturity, but in shifting the blame to the gun itself as if it were "living," Dave proves his immaturity.


His father caught his shoulders and shook him till his teeth rattled.


Dave's father isn't just authoritarian; this action proves he is brutal in his discipline of his boy. The humiliation he faces in front of the other workers deeply affects Dave.


Something hot seemed to turn over inside him each time he remembered how they had laughed.


While the gun was supposed to bring Dave respect, this incident reveals that it has done the opposite. He is humiliated. This humiliation drives him to retrieve the gun and escape.


All he did was work. They treat me like a mule, n then they beat me.


Here the narrator relays some of Dave's thoughts. He feels that his whole future is to work, comparing himself to a mule in the field. Killing the mule means that his options for escaping this life are even more limited, as now he is indebted to Jim Hawkins. This predicament intensifies his feelings of resentment and his urge to prove his manhood.


He had an itch to fire it again.


After he is punished for accidentally shooting the mule, Dave isn't deterred from owning and shooting the gun. Believing his parents, his coworkers, and Hawkins all think less of him now, he is driven to prove them wrong.


Ef Ah had just one mo bullet Ah'd taka shot at tha house ... let im know Dave Saunders is a man.


Again letting readers in on Dave's thoughts, the narrator shows that after being humiliated by his parents and Hawkins, Dave longs more than ever to prove his manhood. He, once again, equates shooting the gun with this assertion.


The long rails ... stretching away, away to ... somewhere where he could be a man.


At the end of the story Dave is unwilling to remain oppressed. In his mind the only way is to run away, bolstered by the idea that his gun has made him a man. Wise or unwise, Dave chooses to pursue his manhood somewhere else.

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