Study Guide

The Man Who Was Almost a Man Summary

By Richard Wright

The Man Who Was Almost a Man Summary

Seventeen-year-old Dave Saunders gets no respect.

After yet another long day of working in Mr. Hawkins's field, teased by his coworkers and treated like a kid, Dave is desperate to prove his manhood. And how exactly does he plan to do that? By buying a gun, duh. He'll have to ask his mom for money, of course, but don't pay that fact any mind.

He stops by Joe's store on his way home to check out the merchandise. Joe gives Dave a gun catalog to bring home, but also offers him a cheap old gun for a mere two dollars. And that's right in Dave's price range. Dave convinces his mom to give him the two dollars, with the caveat that he brings the gun right home and gives it to Daddy Saunders.

Dave does no such thing. He rushes to Joe's store and buys the gun, staying out late so his mom won't take it from him. Alrighty then. The next morning, he heads into work early, eager to pop a few caps before he starts his day. Unfortunately, though, Hawkins is already there and asks Dave to plow the field with Jenny the mule.

Once Dave gets out of earshot, he loads the gun and gets ready to fire into the forest—bam. Suddenly, Jenny collapses; she's been hit. In a panic, Dave buries the gun and comes up with a quick, quite unbelievable cover story. Hawkins doesn't buy it, though, instead telling Dave that he owes fifty dollars for Jenny. That'll take Dave over two years to earn.

Annoyed by this mistreatment, Dave digs up the gun but doesn't return home. He takes a few more shots, his aim steadier this time, before hitching a ride on a train and leaving home for good.

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