Study Guide

The Man Who Was Almost a Man Choices

By Richard Wright

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One of these days he was going to get a gun and practice shooting, then they couldn't talk to him as though he were a little boy. (1)

Everything begins with this one choice. Recently, Dave has been feeling mistreated by everyone in his life and is desperate for a solution. Is buying a gun the best decision he could've made? Probably not. Regardless, he'll have no choice but to live with the consequences.

He had not come straight home with it as his mother had asked; instead he had stayed out in the field, holding the weapon in his hand, aiming it now and then at some imaginary foe. (114)

Once again, we see Dave make an immature choice. Instead of bringing the gun home to his mom and dad, Dave decides to stay out all night just to feel the power of the gun in his hand. That being said, it's quite interesting that he still can't work up the courage to actually shoot the thing. That's a telling decision in its own right.

He did not quite know what had happened. He stood up and stared at the gun as though it were a living thing. (130)

Dave can't believe that he just killed Jenny. In fact, he doesn't seem to want to take responsibility for his action, instead shifting the blame to the gun itself by calling it a "living thing." Because that makes sense.

He had a queer feeling that if he only did something, this would not be; Jenny would not be there bleeding to death. (138)

Well, you're right on that count, Dave. You could've never bought the gun in the first place. You could've brought it home to your parents, like they asked. You could've simply opened your eyes when you shot the pistol. That's a lot of somethings, buddy.

Jim Hawkins walked close to Dave and looked into his face.

"Well, looks like you have bought you a mule, Dave." (178-179)

You know what they say: Don't write checks your butt can't cash. Although this is a steep price for a dead mule—even an unfair one—Dave can't pretend that his choices didn't lead him here.

"Ah swear fo Gawd, Ah didn go t kill the mule, Mistah Hawkins!"

"But you killed her!" (180-181)

In one of his most child-like moments, Dave argues that he should be exempt from punishment because he didn't mean to kill Jenny. He forgets that taking responsibility for one's own actions is one of the most important parts of being an adult.

He would take old man Hawkins that two dollars. But that meant selling the gun. And he wanted to keep that gun. (207)

Looks like Dave has another choice to make. What would you do in this situation? Would you work for two years to pay off a huge debt? Or would you take your two-dollar gun and plow your own path?

Two dollahs a mont. Les see now...Tha means it'll take bout two years. Shucks! (211)

Two years? That's a bit much. Although Hawkins is justified in asking for payment, we can't help but think he wants too much. As it turns out, Dave agrees—with us, that is, not Hawkins.

Ah betcha Bill wouldn't do it! Ah betcha…The cars slid past, steel grinding upon steel. (212)

Although we're not quite sure who "Bill" is, we'd reckon that he's one of the fellows who works with Dave in the fields. This shows how immature Dave still is: He's still making his choices based on other people, instead of himself.

He was hot all over. He hesitated just a moment; then he grabbed, pulled atop of a car, and lay flat. (212)

Now this is unexpected. After a story full of missed opportunities, impulsive screw-ups, and straight-up fabrications, Dave has finally made a bold choice. Is it a good choice? We're not quite sure. Finding out is half of the fun.

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