In Richard Wright's story "Almos' a Man," does the ending prove that he is still immature because he is running away from his responsibility, or that he's a man for taking off on his own?

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In Richard Wright 's short story "The Man Who was Almost a Man" or "Almos' a Man," the main character Dave longs to overcome his poverty stricken life as a sharecropper's son in the rural south during the 1930's. Caught between childhood and adulthood, Dave believes that having a gun...

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In Richard Wright's short story "The Man Who was Almost a Man" or "Almos' a Man," the main character Dave longs to overcome his poverty stricken life as a sharecropper's son in the rural south during the 1930's. Caught between childhood and adulthood, Dave believes that having a gun will change his life and make him a man. He pesters his mother for money and when she gives in he buys a pistol from a local merchant. Rather than bring it home to his mother, he takes it to the fields on Mr. Hawkins' plantation where he plans on practicing with it. Accidentally, he shoots the mule Jenny and, after initially lying about what happened, has to admit that he killed the mule. At the end of the story Dave retrieves the gun which he had buried, fires it four times and then hears the train coming. He makes up his mind to hop on the train and leave his world behind.

On one hand, Dave is still very immature. He believes that an object will provide him with the qualities which will make people consider him a man. He is tired of being laughed at by the other workers on Hawkins' plantation and sees the gun as a great equalizer. He seeks the power he currently lacks by owning a gun. Like a child, he tells lies. He lies to his mother, saying that he will give the gun to his father, and he tries to twist the truth about the death of the mule. Obviously, compulsive lying is not characteristic of a real man. His last decision, however, proves that he has the courage and willpower of an adult.

Dave does the only thing which will free him from a life of poverty and servitude. Escape is the only solution and in this act he displays a great deal of maturity. He hops on the train with the gun secure in his pocket:

He felt his pocket; the gun was still there. Ahead the long rails were glinting in the moonlight, stretching away, away to somewhere, somewhere where he could be a man...

Whether or not Dave succeeds and truly becomes a man is unclear, as indicated by the ellipsis in the final line. But, rather than stay in a dead end life, following in the footsteps of his father, he opts for something different, and in that choice proves that he may indeed be on the path to adulthood. It is the same decision which other blacks made in the years after the Civil War. They left their homes in the south and moved north to make a different life in the hopes of achieving happiness and prosperity. 

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