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The Difficulty of Growing Up Young People in The Man Who Was Almost a Man

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Being raised during the early 1900s was difficult for most African Americans. Especially the lack of education/segregation was one of the hardest to overcome from succeeding in life in a world controlled by whites. Manhood was used very differently back then; young adults did not seem to understand how to be an adult; ultimately, they seem to be independent and powerful, but they are not. In time, we make decisions of our own. But those decisions come with consequences, some that we are prepared for, and some that we may not be. The author of ‘The man who was almost a man,’ Richard Wright, describes a story of a young African-American farm worker, Dave Saunders, desiring to become a man but reveals he is unprepared for manhood and the consequences coming with responsibility. Manhood defines according to Collin’s English Dictionary as the state of being a man rather than a boy. By focusing on Dave Saunders, he defines masculinity as his social environment by owning a gun that will earn his respect, also transform into a man. Besides, unlike Dave’s definition, masculinity is described as ‘toughness, competitiveness, and aggression.’ However, Dave Saunder’s view of masculinity is misguided because manhood comes through your activity, such as a more mature behavior rather than having a mentality of a young child.

Saunders, who is trying to claim his identity in the southern countryside environment, attempts to find ways to prove to other workers that he is an adult. He believes that gaining respect/control from others will lead him to become a man, and by doing so, he buys a gun. To start the topic of racist criticism, the symbol Wright had used as an example was the weapon. For instance, Saunders himself writes, ‘I 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 have to respect him’. In other words, Dave Saunders is saying when he held the gun, he felt like an untouchable man. He thought everyone was going to respect him from now on. Saunders also mentions he feels nervous going into a store owned by a white person, feeling like he can’t be a man because it shows that he isn’t in control of the situation. Another case that which Saunders views masculinity is saying, ‘Ah didn’t know Ah wuz gittin up so early, Mistah Hawkins. Ah wuz fixin t hitch up ol Jenny n take her t the fields. In making this comment, Dave Saunders feels like he can be dishonest to his boss, Jim Hawkins, because of Saunders owns a gun. When Saunders went to the fields with Jenny, he accidentally shot the mule and then panics trying to stop the bleeding with mud; however, she indeed died. When the town found out Saunders shot Jenny, he tried lying about how she died, and everyone had laughed at him. Saunders felt humiliated, so he ran away on a train, later on, to not face the consequences he has made.

When it comes to the topic of masculinity, most of us will readily agree that it is a stage from being a boy into a man. Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of how do you view masculinity. Whereas some are convinced that masculinity is something gone through actions such as owning up to your mistakes or getting past struggles, others maintain that masculinity is traditionally being tough, and aggressive. Many essentials aspects can be found in ‘The Man Who Was Almost a Man.’ David Saunders strived to identify who he was and what his purpose in the world was. In this story, Richard Wright had written about was a young boy trying to figure out what being a man is. Saunder’s struggle was man versus society, where his skin color meant more than his actions. He was uncomfortable interacting with the white culture and had no freedom/respect whatsoever because of his age. He believed at that moment, being a man was his only option to gain his respect from others. Dave Saunders, in this story, used lies as an escape from responsibility bringing him more problems. The message of this story is there are other ways to earn your esteem with others. The problem with Saunders was that he was impatient with his problem; being patient, learning, or owning from your mistakes and taking the consequences is the most mature way to handle things rather than violence. 

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