Richard Wright

Essay by syunukiya September 2004

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On the surface, the message of the story is that black people are stupid, deceitful, unkind, violent and a threat to white people. This man who was almost a man, but not quite, deserves to be called "boy" at 17 and forever. The story ends with a kindly white man being cheating out of $50 and Dave, the black boy-man, riding off into the night with nothing but anger, a gun and a long track record of poor judgment. But upon further examination, Dave appears to be less responsible for his shortcomings. His poverty is deep and his parents are awful and he has no future. His desire to get a gun so he can become a man is ignorant, but what other recourse does he have? In his environment there is practically no way he could grow up and develop self respect and the respect of others. Dave is treated just like a mule. He's given no responsibility, not even the chance to hold on to part of his earnings. At first we might think he's on such a short leash because he's semi-retarded but when taking a look at the treatment from his parents and his future prospects, it's not hard to see that it could be the result of lowered expectations. Dave doesn't want a gun, he wants to be a man, which is a natural, healthy desire that hasn't yet been beat out of him. The fact that he thinks a gun will do the trick is the only solution his environment can have him imagine. Dave's belief that having a gun will make him a man is ridiculous and repellent but as the story turns out, his pursuit of having a gun is his ticket out of town, his only hope for...