“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

Pages: 3
Words: 825


Written by Richard Wright, “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” is a story that focuses on an African-American farmer who strives to survive the racial frictions in Southern America. This paper analyzes Wright’s method of presenting the thematic characteristics of the story.

Wright exposes the positions and conditions of the story’s characters through their dialogs and expressions. Without stating his opinion, Richard Wright engages the reader in the story and transfers his messages through dialogs and narratives. Wright’s story makes it evident that dialogs between a story’s characters expose the thematic characteristics of the narrative. He defines true masculinity by presenting the importance of self-recognition. The subsequent section provides evidence of Wright’s use of dialogs to express struggle, family interaction, and racial differences.

Wright’s Use of Character Interaction to Promote Themes

The author uses dialogs between his characters to expose the struggle in David Saunders’ household. Wright expresses struggle when David Saunders’ mother says, “Waal, that’s good. We kin use it in the outhouse” (879). David’s family was living under poor conditions, and they found it difficult to meet basic needs. This made them improvise to meet their supplies. Wright used David’s mother’s discussion to expose the family’s low financial position.

The poor financial condition of David’s family is further highlighted when David is not allowed to handle his finances. Wright uses a narrative to hint this by explaining that “She stooped, turned slightly to one side, [and] raised the hem of her dress. Rolled down the top of her stocking and came up with a slender wad of the bill” (880). Although David feels emasculated by this gesture, his mother explains how important every penny is.

Wright also uses dialogs and descriptions to depict family relationships. David’s father daunts and bullies him, and this is shown when Wright explains that David could not discuss financial needs with his father; instead, he cornered his mother “when she was alone” (882). The passage shows how David was emasculated by his father’s presence. Although David’s mother was more approachable, it was not guaranteed that his mother would support him financially. At a point, David seeks to purchase a gun to prove his masculinity, but his mother explains that he “ain ganna toucha penny of tha money fer no gun! That’s how come Ah has Mistah Hawkins t pay me, cause Ah knows yuh ain got no sense” (882).

Wright uses the dialogs and interactions between the characters to display the social role of racism in the setting of the story. The story demonstrates that the racial interaction between blacks and whites was not characterized by equity. Wright shows this when he describes the way David approached a white man’s store. Wright states that David was “confident until he saw fat Joe walk in through the rear door, then his courage began to ooze” (883). The sudden shift in David’s persona, when he realizes the shop’s owner is white, clarifies the racism in Wright’s social setting.

Wright’s inclusion of this scene in the story informs the reader of the presence of intimidation due to racial diversity. David’s mission in the story is to prove his masculinity to everybody around him, and he intends to achieve this by owning a gun. According to Wright, David expresses his yearning to be in control when he says, “Laed, ef Ah had just one mo bullet Ah’d taka shot at tha house. Ah’d like t scare ol man Hawkins jusa little… Jusa enough t let im know Dave Saunders is a man” (886). David believes that a gun will make him masculine, and his statement shows that his boss suppressed him.


This paper highlighted the use of dialogs and descriptions for the depiction of the characters’ dispositions and social settings. The paper focused on how Richard Wright used dialogs and narratives to reveal the social and economic issues characteristic to the era of “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” Many significant themes can be identified in “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” The author used his short story to explain the need for people to be confident and aware of their value to society. David Saunders, the story’s main character, suffered to realize his worth, mission, and ambition.

Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” contributes to the literature by exposing the consequences of racial diversity in Southern America. The story helps people understand the need to identify their potential and acknowledge their roles in society. Wright shows that the only path to achieving confidence is through self-realization. David Saunders purchases a gun to boost his masculinity, but he ends up getting into trouble and running from his troubles. Richard Wright uses his story to show that self-recognition is the beginning of a successful life. The author’s writing style is excellent because he integrates his message in an interesting and intriguing storyline. David’s social interactions are used to propagate the significance of self-recognition in society.

Works Cited

Wright, Richard. “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford, 2011. 878-87. Print.