Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” is one in a collection of eight stories, written at various times and published under one cover in 1961. The word “man” appears in all eight titles, and four of these begin with the phrase, “The Man Who . . . ,” suggesting that each protagonist is a universal figure, a kind of Everyman. Thus David Glover is representative of the adolescent dimension of humankind, and Richard Wright employs various techniques to elevate the main character to a level of universality.

One technique is the use of interior monologue to reveal David’s psychological state. Instead of relying on the omniscient narrator’s description of the adolescent’s turmoil, Wright presents David’s own thoughts about, for example, his growing up:Shucks, Ah ain scareda them even ef they are biggern me! Aw, Ah know whut Ahma do. Ahm going by old Joe’s sto n git that Sears Roebuck catlog n look at them guns. Mebbe Ma will lemme buy one when she gits mah pay from ol man Hawkins. Ahma beg her t gimme some money. Ahm ol ernough to hava gun. Ahm seventeen. Almos a man.

Revealing David’s state of mind through his private thoughts—in David’s own southern black dialect—creates a sense of immediacy as well as identification with the character’s dilemma. Readers are not simply reading about the protagonist’s struggle; they are witnessing it as it occurs in David’s mind.

At times, Wright uses figurative imagery to dramatize this psychological turmoil. For example, David is said to be “like a hungry dog scratching for a bone” as he paws up the buried gun. For the most part, however, the story relies less on imagery than on dialogue, interior and exterior, to convey the inner struggles of an adolescent trying to become an adult, the struggles that make David Glover more than simply a seventeen-year-old character in a Wright story, that make him a universal figure, an Everyman.