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Dave is a young, powerless black man who wants to be treated like an adult. He is not taken seriously as a man because he hasn't proven himself to his family and employer. He works on a plantation plowing fields, and the money he earns goes to his family. Dave is upset that he doesn't have his own money to spend. He begs his mother to give him the money to buy a gun so he will feel powerful and in charge of his own life. In Dave's mind, the gun will demand respect because he will be able to kill anyone "black or white." Dave is like other young black men during the time of this story. They are not considered "men" by society because of the color of their skin. It is a struggle for Dave to prove himself, and he thinks a gun will automatically cause him to earn his place as a man in society. This coming of age story depicts the dilemma of blacks during this period of sharecropping. With no real economic, political, or social power, they find power wherever they can. Because of the mistake Dave makes when he shoots Jenny, the mule, he will not be considered a man for some time. He becomes beholding to the plantation owner for another two years to pay back the money lost because of Jenny's death.
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