Tangie Singleton Professor Quarg English 102 CUA 1 November 2012 Revision The Man Who was Almost a Man Manhood is defined as a time in life when the body has transitioned from boyhood into puberty and has taken on male secondary sexual characteristics. But on the other hand, to be considered a man also involves certain gender roles such as leadership, responsibility for actions, and careful decision making. In Richard Wright’s “The Man Who was Almost a Man” , a plethora of representations assist in disclosing the primary focus of the story.
The Sears Roebuck catalog, the gun, and the train serve as three of the symbols that help to reveal that Dave has much more to learn about life, responsibility, and what it takes to be considered a man. When Dave borrows the Sears Roebuck catalog from Joe’s store, it serves as a window to a larger world of opportunity. The catalog displays a variety of goods that are far beyond what Dave could have ever acquired.
To Dave, the catalog serves as an avenue to owning a gun and gaining respect from his family and associates.
The catalog also reveals Dave’s obliviousness because “he thumbed page after page” (Wright 217), indicating that he was ignorant to the proper manner in which to use the catalog which would have been to use a table of contents or an index. Dave’s parents looked at the book as something that could be utilized in the restroom for tissue paper and did not understand the why Dave showed so much interest in the book considering the fact that Dave did not have any money to purchase anything from the book.. From the catalog alone, it is evident that Dave is not prepared to be a man.
From the moment that Dave purchases the gun, it serves as a major turning point in his life. His gestures and attitude signifies that Dave feels superior to everyone. When he is untruthful to his mother about hiding the gun outdoors it only heightened the truth that he was not ready for a gun. The emotion he feels from owning the gun is first mentioned the morning after the purchase when Dave instantly has a “feeling of power” (Wright 218). In his mind, he could kill anyone, and everyone would respect him because he carried a “big gun, with a long barrel and a heavy handle” (Wright 218).
The idea of Dave strapping a loaded gun to his thigh is a major indicator of his immature and illogical mindset because strapping a loaded gun to the thigh is very dangerous for an inexperienced boy and can result in severe injuries if the gun went off. The final symbol in the story is the train which represents escape and freedom. At this point in the story, Dave knew that he was in trouble for the mistakes that he had made. He was anticipating financial and physical punishment. To Dave, the only way to deal with the consequences of killing the mule and keeping the gun for himself was to run away.
He wanted to be away from discipline, responsibility, and not being considered a man. Dave jumped on the train determined to find “somewhere where he could be a man” (Wright 221). The train also reveals Dave’s inability to be accountable and deal with the consequences of his decisions because he did not want to pay the price for killing the mule, nor did he notify his parents that he would be leaving. The catalog, the gun, and the train are three symbols of Dave’s puerile and preposterous mentality.
The catalog displays his ignorance and immaturity, the gun exhibits the false feeling of power and authority, and the train presents Dave’s ability to run away from his problems. Manhood is not purchased at the corner store. Owning a big gun is not a ticket to becoming a man. To be considered a man one must be able to put away childish things and take responsibility for one’s` actions. Works Cited Wright, Richard. “The Man who was Almost a Man. ” Literature Craft and Voice. Ed. Nicholas Delbanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. 215-221. Print
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