Study Guide

Mrs. Saunders in The Man Who Was Almost a Man

By Richard Wright

Mrs. Saunders

Mrs. Saunders has a tendency to baby her seventeen-year-old son, Dave. They're no Buster and Lucille Bluth, but then again, who is? Still, despite the best of intentions, Mrs. Saunders's treatment of Dave keeps him stuck in childhood, rather than pushing him forward into adulthood.

Mom Con

This is nowhere more evident than when Dave begs his mom to buy him the pistol. Mrs. Saunders could have responded to Dave's request in any number of ways. For instance, she could have:

  • Put her foot down and refused to even entertain the possibility of buying a gun
  • Talked to Mr. Saunders and had him discuss it with Dave later that night
  • Agreed to buy him the gun, while setting up some important ground rules.

But instead, Mrs. Saunders chooses none of the above. Dave manages to prod her into giving him the worst of both worlds: money to buy a gun without any meaningful parental guidance. True, she tells him to bring it home for his father, but we're pretty sure she's the only person who thinks this is actually going to happen. We don't entertain the idea once, and as far as we can tell, neither does Dave.

This is all part of the plan, though: Dave knows that he "would do much better by cornering his mother when she was alone" (61). After seventeen years, Dave is well aware of the fact that, though his dad is tough, his mom is a pushover.

Doing Her Best

It's not that Mrs. Saunders is a bad lady—it's just that by helping Dave, she accidentally hurts him. With a dad like Mr. Saunders, Dave could probably use a parent who's a bit more sympathetic to his needs. Still, though, Mrs. Saunders isn't helping Dave by letting him get away with nonsense like this. She's only holding him back from reaching his full potential.

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