Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” is an initiation story, a tale of a teenage youth struggling to break free of childhood and enter the world of adulthood. Frustrated by being young, poor, and black, David Glover wrestles with the tension of wanting to be an adult yet being viewed as a child by the adult community. In David’s case, the action that he takes to acquire manhood merely reinforces his elders’ beliefs that he is still an adolescent.
When the story opens, David is thinking about his quest for manhood, which he connects with owning a gun. Because he is “almos a man,” he believes that he should own the symbol of manhood: a gun. Borrowing a mail-order catalog from a local store owner so that he can look at the pictures of revolvers, David becomes obsessed with thoughts of guns, becoming a man, and, most important, the strategy that he must use to persuade his mother that he should be able to buy a gun.
Employing all the typical maneuvers of a child who knows how to manipulate his mother—David knows that he should work on her and not his father—he begins by slipping his arm around her waist and telling her how much he loves her. These strategies break down her initial resistance to the idea, and when David proposes that the gun be given to his father, she relents, telling the boy that he may purchase the gun but that he must bring it back immediately and give it to her to turn over to Mr. Glover.
Elated with his...
(The entire section is 769 words.)
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The story opens as Dave, the seventeen-year-old protagonist, heads home from a day working in the fields. He fantasizes about buying a gun and knows that if he had a gun his fellow workers would no longer treat him like a boy.
He goes into the local store and asks to look at catalogues. The proprietor, Joe, questions him about what he wants to buy and shows him an old pistol he wants to sell. Dave is excited that Joe is only asking two dollars for the gun and resolves to convince his mother to let him buy it.
He brings home the catalogue and looks at it during dinner. His parents question him about it but he waits until after dinner. When his father has left the room, he asks his mother for the money he has been saving.
Dave’s mother first dismisses Dave’s request, calling him a fool; but when Dave suggests that he could buy the gun for his father, she reconsiders. She gives him the money and tells him to bring the gun straight to her. He buys the gun, but doesn’t go home right away. Instead he plays with the gun until he knows everyone has gone to sleep. Then he leaves for work early, taking the gun with him.
His boss, Mr. Hawkins, questions Dave about why he is early and then sends him to a field to start plowing. In the field he fires the gun and its strong recoil causes him to drop it. He looks up to see Jenny, the mule pulling the plow, running across the field. When he catches up with her he sees that she is...
(The entire section is 583 words.)