The Man Who Was Almost a Man

by Richard Wright

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 244

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 compare it to the gun in ‘‘The Man Who Was Almost a Man.’’ What do these two objects say about what it means to be a man in each time and place?

Do some research about the economic situation of black farm laborers in the early twentieth-century South. How was the situation of such laborers similar to and different from the institution of slavery that had been abolished half a century earlier? How does this comparison enhance your understanding of the story?

At the end of the story Dave jumps aboard a train heading north. The story takes place during a period when huge numbers of African Americans were migrating north for a variety of social and economic reasons. Do some research about this migration.

When Wright wrote an early version of ‘‘The Man Who Was Almost a Man’’ in the mid-1930s, he was an active member of the Communist Party. Research the basic tenets of the Communist political philosophy and consider how the story reflects these ideas.

In the 1930s many authors—both black and white—utilized dialects in their writing. Find another author who uses dialect, and compare its effect on the representation of African Americans with that in ‘‘The Man Who Was Almost a Man.’’ Why do you think Wright chose to write in dialect?

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