What does it mean to be a man? How does one qualify for the title? Is the term “man” simply referring to male human beings, or does it hold a greater measure of meaning in society. In order to get more insight into this subject matter, I consulted, ” The Tormont Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary”. As I anticipated, the first definition for man stated as following: “An adult human being as distinguished from a female”. This definition, did not surprise me, but what did ,was what followed it , it stated: A male human being endowed with such qualities as courage, strength, and fortitude, considered characteristic of manhood”. To be a man in our society one must posses such qualities, along with honor, reliability and endurance. This qualities, may take some years to acquire and elude others all together. As we read “The man who was almost a man” by Richard Wright, we discover that for the main character “Dave”, the desire to be a man is defined and based soly on his need for respect through fear.
The reader learns early in the story Dave’s yearning to break away from boyhood and become a man. He is however immediately misguided in his perception of the journey to manhood. In the fourth sentence of the story, the narrator says, “One of these days he was going to get a gun and practice shooting, then they couldn’t talk to him as though he were a little boy”. As the story starts, Dave’s mindset becomes evident. He connects others respect for him, through their fears and his force. He perceived the gun as his ticket to becoming a man. From the moment he gets the gun he feels its power, “The first movement he made the following morning was to reach under his pillow for the gun. In the gray light of dawn he held it loosely, feeling a sense of power. Could kill a man with a gun like this. Kill anybody, black or white. And if he were holding his gun in his hand, nobody could run over him; they would respect him”(Wright, 377). “Lawd, ef Ah had just one mo bullet Ah’d taka shot at tha house. Ah’d like t scare ol man Hawkins jusa littleJusa enough t let im know Dave Saunders is a Man”(Wright383).
Dave’s adoration and oppsetion with the gun is seen throughout the story. The way he treats the gun and speaks of it , it seems that he though his actions and thoughts has brought animation to the inanimate object, ” He stood up and stared at the gun as though it were a living thing. He gritted his teeth and kicked the gun. Yuh almos broke mah arm!”(Wright378) Dave is amazed at the guns power, he kicks and shouts at it as if how dear the gun that he loves so much try to hurt him. He loves to hold the gun, he loves to touch it, he loves to feel it against his skin. An example of these actions is seen on page 337, “…He lay turning it slowly in his hands. He broke it, took out the cartridges, felt them, and then put them backhe slid out of bed, got a long strip of old flannel from a trunk, wrapped the gun in it, and tied it to his naked thigh while it was still loaded.”(Wright 377) He needs constant contact with the to feel his own power. There is a passage in the story were he no longer has the gun on his, you can sense his feeling of powerlessness, “Dave turned and walked slowly. He heard people laughing. Dave glared, his eyes welling with tears. Hot anger bubbled in him. Then he swallowed and stumbled on”(Wright 382).