Falling Short

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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"Falling Short" When does a boy become a man? When he becomes eighteen? Moves out of his parents' house? Gets married? When? That question does not have a definite answer. The short story "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" written by Richard Wright tried to answer this question. The main character, Dave, wants people to stop treating him like a boy because he sees himself as a man. He also wants to gain the respect and power so closely associated with manhood but doesn't want to accept the responsibilities that goes with being a man.

I found the title of the story very interesting in relation to the story itself. Wright was trying to say that Dave never became a man. He was treated like a boy because that is the way he acted. He would always return to his childish manner. He only wanted to be an adult when he thought it was convenient.

Dave wanted the privileges of an adult but not the responsibilities of one. An example of this would be when he lied to everyone about how the mule died. He should have just been a man about it and admitted his wrongdoing. Instead, he lied to everyone, causing his mother to treat him like a child for him to tell the truth.

Dave does not understand what it really means to be an adult. Just because he has a job and earns his own money, he considers himself a man; but the people around him don't think he is mature enough to be called a man. At the age of seventeen, his Jeter 2 parents still treat him as a little boy. They don't even let him manage his own money. His father controls most of his actions as if he is a little kid. The people in his neighborhood also treat him as a boy. As a result, he gets a gun just to let everyone know that he is old enough to handle himself. He thought that getting a gun would gain him the respect that he deserved. Also not having his mom get his paycheck he thought would make him a man. In reality, material things have nothing to do with being a real man. It is all about responsibilities. He must first learn how to accept responsibility and not fall short at them. In many ways Dave is very unreliable and falls short of tasks given to him.

The following passages that I consider the work's theme is when his mother told him to bring the gun back to her after he brought it and he didn't. Another theme is when he is suppose to be plowing the field and he ends up plowing only two rows then stops to shoot his gun. This shows his irresponsibility. If he wants people to treat him like a man then he should act like a man and do what he's suppose to do and get the job done, rather then doing what he wants to do.

The theme of this story support my ideas/values that I hold because I don't think its material things that makes you a man or a woman, it's the way you handle your responsibilities. If doing something immature just to prove yourself to your family and friends, makes you a man or a woman than you're not much of a man or woman. A real man or woman doesn't have to prove themselves to anyone because regardless they know that they are any ways.

Jeter 3 This story is a good example of how teens try to act grown up, which in turn they make immature decisions. I know that I have made many immature decisions just because I thought that I was "grown". In the end, I should have taken my parents' advice instead of my own. Dave also made a very immature decision by leaving home. He should be mature enough to take responsibilities for his action. I believe, if the story were to continue he would realize the mistake he made and would have come back home. No matter how much teens don't want to admit it, their parents know what's best.