In Man Gone Down, the main theme is related to the title. There is definitely a man going down, but how did this happen? What is the narrator of this story going to do about it? The narrator believes he is too damaged to stop his fall. Although he attempts to stop it his descent, he feels too weak, too battered, too unfit to do so. He blames his “damage” on his background and the color of his skin. Although a talented man, one who readily admits his high intelligence and gifts, he feels unprepared to face all his challenges. Something is always holding him back.
In the beginning of the novel, the narrator appears to have a grip on his old grievances. He acknowledges that he was hurt as a child, both physically and psychologically but he is determined to give his own children a better life. But as the novel progresses, readers learn how wounded the man really is. He has had good jobs, but for some reason, which remains unexpressed, he loses them. He sets high standards for himself, which he seems afraid to reach. Therefore, he is constantly in a state of free fall, slowly descending into a "black hole," as he later tells his friend Gavin. The man falls deeper and deeper into depression.
Although he remains committed to supporting his wife and children, giving them the kind of life he craved as a child, throughout most of the story, the narrator talks about and plans for abandoning them—just as his own father did. He obviously deeply cares for his family and wants to protect his children, but that responsibility lays heavily on his soul.
The narrator is a complex and contradictory person. He often appears to be weak and confused. Partly, this is due to the fact that he does not eat enough food and never sleeps. He survives on coffee, mostly. On the other hand, he demonstrates a great deal of strength, both physically and mentally. He completes hard physical labor as if it were a breeze, even in his...
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