How is Wright’s story "The Man Who was Almost a Man," indicative of Modernism?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Wright's story is indicative of Modernism because it shows a fundamental "shift" in human relations.  One of the premises of Modernism is that it helps to show how human relations have "shifted" to quote Virginia Woolf.  Dave is in this position as he sees his own world as one where shift is evident.  His desire to own the gun is reflective of his own shifting perception of his masculinity.  He wishes to no longer be seen as a boy and the purchase of the weapon is one in which he can shift both his perceptions of self and the perceptions others have of him.  At the same time, there is a shifting in the entire coming of age narrative.  The purchase of the gun, an instrument that ends up indicating and symbolizing strength, ends up embodying weakness as he is shamed after the mishap with the gun and mule.  This is another element of Modernism evident as the traditional structure is not followed in the narrative.  At the same time, I think that one can see a Modernist ending demonstrated in the ending of the story.  There is little in way of resolution and harmony present.  Dave leaves.  He leaves his family, his way of life, and the only real surrounding he has known.  The only thing he takes with him is the gun, reflecting a very disconnecting and disconcerting vision of reality.  This is Modernist in scope and tone.

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