Richard Wright's 'Almost a Man': A Short Story About Manhood

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The Man Who Was Almost A Man is about a teenager who works at a field and is tired of being treated like a kid. Dave wants to be treated like an adult and goes out to buy a gun, but the only problem is that his mother keeps all his money from working and has to tell her the truth. His mother gives him the $2 for the gun in exchange for the gun once it has been bought. Dave doesn’t do that but instead hides it and later on shoots a mule on accident and instead of owning up to everything Dave continues to lie and eventually just hops onto a train and leaves.

Dave believes that if he gets the gun, he will be considered a man, an adult even and that he will he get treated as such and no longer as a kid. The gun in this story and in Dave’s head symbolizes manhood and power.

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Some school shootings that have occurred were due to somebody wanting power and to end those that ever mistreated them. In the article I found that the author, Shuffelton, addresses school shootings through an investigation of honor and masculinity. The author states that guns are easily available to just about anybody in the U.S, and that

“In the wake of that tragedy, the advertisement’s association of manhood with assault weapons provoked outrage, but it captures something crucial about the connections among gun violence, masculinity, and honor. Masculinity is never an identity a man can establish permanently: it needs to be “reissued” by those in a position to judge a man’s masculinity.

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This article begins with an exploration of honor as an ethical framework that treats identity as constantly in need of “reissue.” Honor, it finds, depends upon a peer group qualified to judge whether one deserves the identity‐based respect one claims.” (Consider Your Man Card Reissued: Masculine Honor and Gun Violence.”)

It is also not unlikely for people to associate respect with honor and manhood. Like Dave, there are young people all over the world that want to skip to the adulthood of their lives simply because they want to not be treated as little kids anymore. The only problem with this is that these people, also don’t know how to handle situations maturely. Take Dave as an example, “He felt his pocket; the gun was still there. Ahead the long rails were glinting in the moonlight, stretching away, away to somewhere, somewhere where he could be a man…”. Dave refused to accept what he had done and own up to anything.

Dave ran away with the gun to some place new where nobody would know him and what he did, some place where he could be treated as a man. The only issue with that was that he still had the mentality of the teenager he was. There were also other times in the story when Dave didn’t take responsibility for his actions. When his mother told him to give her the gun as soon as he got it, he didn’t go home and give it, instead he stayed out in the fields and shot it and his Jenny the mule. When he got caught by his mother and everyone else, he was supposed to pay for the mule each pay he got but instead of agreeing or even owning up to everything he ran away.

There are several articles that have been written about masculinity and the connection to gun usage that can be found just like there has been research that shows men, some young, have been able to achieve a level of influence higher than normal for their rank and even more so, above that of community elders IF they carry guns. Some of this research also demonstrated that men often feel disempowerment when they cannot enjoy the same privileges their fathers had or even when social, economic, and political factors negatively affect their role as head of the household and protector of the family.

The association of guns with masculinity can be dated all the way back to when the U.S was still being colonized. “As conditions in the colonies began to change, particularly with the Revolution, gun use became increasingly symbolic, associated with the wide range of often masculine values, especially liberty, freedom, and independence.” (pg. 142, Open Fire) is what Amy Ann Cox had to say about masculinity having ties with gun usage.

It’s not uncommon for more men to own guns than it is for women. In 2013, men were 3 times more likely to own a gun than women. The fact that a vast majority of mass shooters have been men and that is also due to the fact that women are not as violent as men and some people would even argue that women mature a lot quicker than males. There have been many studies that have researched further into this and what was found was that “According to the study, it’s rooted in the fact that the female brain establishes connections and “prunes” itself faster than the male brain.” (Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy.

With everything that has been said, not every male needs a gun to feel masculine but those that do require guns, usually end up using it for all the wrong reasons. There is a lot of pressure put on the male population within limits such as the males of the family have to step forward and protect the women, children, and the elderly. There used to be a lot of pressure put on the man of the family because they used to be the only ones working, most females were to be at home worry free about money and work.

In years that have passed, many things have changed, women are working and taking care of their families on their own. Some women may leave the father of the child to take care of the child alone and this might hurt anybody, not just the man that was left behind. To any man, once their masculinity has been stripped, they try their hardest to prove themselves which in Dave’s case, he would try to prove himself a man and worthy to be treated as such.

There is more than just wanting to be treated as a man, it also has to do with insecure people having a psychological need to appear stronger and in charge. Since this projection does not make them feel more protected, they also like to show off their guns. Thus, you have a correlation between masculinity and guns. Next people tend to imply causation as in guns make someone manlier or the opposite.

Dave made a mistake that just about anybody his age would, the only different was that he did not own up to it like I thought he should have. For me personally, I of course have done things and not owned up to them because I hated being treated like a kid so within a few years I went out and got a tattoo. Though that is dramatically different from purchasing a gun, it still had the same endpoint; I wanted to be treated like an adult, so I got something a rational well thought out adult would. Dave got a gun because in the time he grew up in this story, it seems as though most men at that time owned guns to protect the house and family, therefore he correlated guns with power which in turn also got associated with masculinity.

Cite this page

Richard Wright's 'Almost a Man': A Short Story About Manhood. (2022, Apr 18). Retrieved from

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