Study Guide

Mr. Hawkins in The Man Who Was Almost a Man

By Richard Wright

Mr. Hawkins

If life were a game of poker, Mr. Hawkins would hold all the cards. The dude is seriously rich, making beaucoup bucks while paying workers like Dave mere scraps. In many ways, he represents the legacy of slavery that still hangs over Dave's world.

Who's the Boss?

There's no two ways about it—Mr. Hawkins is in charge. We can see this in the way he interacts with Dave; we can see it in the respect he commands from the other townsfolk; we can even see it in "Hawkins' big white house" (210), a model of opulence compared to the Saunders's humble abode.

This giant plantation house also connects Hawkins to the legacy of slavery. In many ways, the relationship between Hawkins and Dave is the same as one between a master and slave—after all, Dave doesn't even get to hold on to his money at the end of the day. Plus, Dave will be working for free for two years after killing Jenny. We're not saying that Dave should get off without a blemish, but it's impossible to deny the way this arrangement mimics slavery.

Dave's World

Of course, Dave doesn't yet fully understand how these complex racial dynamics affect him, though he can feel their effects. When he first holds his gun, he becomes excited by the realization that he "could [...] kill anybody, black or white" (114). He knows instinctively that race plays a role in the structure of society, though he couldn't write a thesis about it or anything

Once we understand this, Dave's decision to leave town starts making a lot of sense. For the first time, Dave understands the unbalanced power structure in which he resides. He won't be able to change things here, though, so his only hope is to strike out on his own and hope he finds something better. Hawkins can pay for his own mule.

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