“Ahead the long rails were glinting in the moonlight, stretching away, away to somewhere, somewhere where he could be a man” (Wright). Richard Wright was an African American author in the 19th century. Most of his stories were along the line of racial themes. He wrote the book “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” which was published in 1961.
The story’s main character is Dave, an African American struggling with respect and power. Dave really wanted to have a gun but his mom was fully convinced only bad things would happen. He had no choice but to make sure that the gun wasn’t going to be used at the wrong time or place. He worked for Jim Hawkins, a white plantation owner. The story consisted of three themes which were setting, dialogue and character relationships. Each theme had something to do with racial differences.
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To begin with, Dave’s family life was extremely difficult. For example, his mom had control on how the money would be spent. Constantly Dave would have to beg for the money to get the gun. His mom would keep saying no until she finally gave in. Her specific order was to buy the gun and to bring it back to her so she can say it was for the father. “Yuh bring it straight back t me, yuh hear? It be fer Pa”, (Wright) turns out he never gave his mother the gun.
The two dollars that was being given to him was extremely crucial in that time. Money was something that shouldn’t have been taken for granted. That’s exactly what his mom was trying to say by not giving him the money. The way he had treated the white store owner was as if the owner was superior. In those days there were still separation from blacks and whites. He would call him mister not just his real name.
“How yuh, Mistah Joe? Aw, don wanna buy nothing. Ah jus wanted t see ef yuhd lemme look at tha catalog erwhile”, (Wright) the way he greeted Joe was as if he was more formal and in a higher class level. Although Joe was in a higher class level he still greeted Dave in a normal way by saying howdy. African Americans weren’t treated fairly and were seemed to be more of the underclass poor type. When his mother had said the catalog can be used in the outhouse came off as their extremely money conscious. Also, the way Dave had spoken throughout the story was with poor grammar.
For example, Dave had spoken with an uneducated / no proper grammar tone. Since he spoke like that, it made him come off from the South or maybe that he wasn’t able to complete any level of education. His mother even had the same issue. She wants to encourage him to go to school and with that it might even help with their social class. They most likely weren’t taught how to speak properly which is why their words are cut off or joined.
Joe’s grammar was more in the upper class and was definitely higher than Dave. The white people might’ve been able to afford school a lot easier than the African Americans. When he and Dave would speak to each other it was extremely easy to tell who was who. Joe can actually pronounce his words correctly and they weren’t really cut off. “Your ma letting you have your own money now”, (Wright) its grammar and phrasing is in mostly a good format.
With that, it shows that the whites were mostly superior to everyone with a dark skinned complexion. To end with, white and black people weren’t really meant to associate with each other. For instance, the white people had more power over anyone else. “Kill anybody, black or white” (Wright), is what Dave said about him feeling power with the gun. Dave felt that the gun would give him respect from anyone.
He mainly wanted respect from other workers and his father. “C’mon boy, talk” (Wright), he didn’t really get along with his father so his father felt like a threat to him. When he killed the mule he didn’t know what to do and he didn’t know how his parents would react. The first thing Jim told him when he found out Dave killed the mule was “Well, boy, looks like yuh done bought a dead mule! Hahaha” (Wright), Dave didn’t mean to kill Jenny with the gun he just wanted to try it out. Dave’s family was so terribly upset on what had happened he kept crying.
Jim’s friend and he thought it was funny so they kept making jokes. Since they made jokes it made it seem like the white people didn’t have much to worry about. Jim told Bob (Dave’s father) “Just let the boy keep on working and pay me two dollars a month” (Wright) he told him that because he shot Jenny. Nothing was suppose to get shot at he just wanted a gun to feel good about himself. The white people most definitely had less to worry about in their life.
School, work, food, etc was no big deal to them. To the blacks it was on a whole new level. African Americans had to go through a lot in life while life to the whites was a stroll in the park. In conclusion, Dave had a lot to go through in his life. Racial differences occur everywhere throughout the world.
Dave really wanted to feel powerful and to gain respect from others so he thought a gun would work. In the end a gun didn’t give him respect it got him in trouble. The significance of the story is respect will only come if respect is given. Parents are tough on kids but it’s only for the best. Dave didn’t realize that she was trying to help him.