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.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Racism and Black Masculinity
The first decades of the twentieth century were difficult and violent ones for African Americans in...

(The entire section is 587 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

The story is set in a rural southern community in the early years of the twentieth century. All of the events of the...

(The entire section is 614 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1930s Spurred by the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression cripples the United States economy. In 1932 approximately 25% of...

(The entire section is 373 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Dave believes that a gun will make him a man. What are other objects that signify manhood in contemporary culture? Choose one such object and...

(The entire section is 244 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

Learning in Focus made a film adaptation of ‘‘Almos’ a Man’’ in 1976, directed by Stan Lathan, written by Leslie Lee, and produced...

(The entire section is 37 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), Wright’s first and best-known collection of short stories, explores the legacy of slavery and the...

(The entire section is 187 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Baldwin, James, ‘‘Alas, Poor Richard: ‘Eight Men,’’’ in Dial, 1961, pp. 188-99.


(The entire section is 221 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Baldwin, James. The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985. New York: St. Martin’s Press/Marek, 1985.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Richard Wright. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Butler, Robert.“Native Son”: The Emergence of a New Black Hero. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Fabre, Michel. The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright. Translated by Isabel Barzun. New York: William Morrow, 1973.

Felgar, Robert. Richard Wright. Boston: Twayne, 1980.

Hakutani, Yoshinobu. Richard Wright and Racial Discourse. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

Kinnamon, Keneth, ed. Critical Essays on Richard Wright’s “Native Son.” New York: Twayne, 1997.

Kinnamon, Keneth, ed. A Richard Wright Bibliography: Fifty Years of Criticism and Commentary: 1933-1982. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Rand, William E. “The Structure of the Outsider in the Short Fiction of Richard Wright and F. Scott Fitzgerald.” CLA Journal 40 (December, 1996): 230-245.

Walker, Margaret. Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius. New York: Warner, 1988.