Study Guide

The Man Who Was Almost a Man Coming of Age

By Richard Wright

Coming of Age

If you've ever been (or currently are, for that matter) a teenager, then you should be able to relate to Dave Saunders in "The Man Who Was Almost a Man." He works hard, but gets no respect from his boss or coworkers; he tries to be responsible, but his parents still treat him like a kid. This is a tale every teen knows well.

Dave is eager to grow up and gain respect, so he buys a gun, thinking it will make him a man. He's super wrong, though. Although Dave doesn't have any interest in using that gun to hurt anyone, he can't deny the power—the downright machismo—that he feels when he holds the weapon. But as Dave learns (quite maturely, we might add), there's simply no shortcut to becoming an adult.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. In your opinion, does Dave become a man by the end of the story? Why or why not?
  2. Do Dave's parents support his growth to adulthood? Explain.
  3. How does Dave's ability to fire the gun reflect his coming-of-age experience?
  4. Is Dave right to want to be treated like an adult? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Obviously, Dave's decision to hop a train and skip town represents him remaining a child because he runs from his problems instead of righting them.

Dave's decision to hop a train and skip town represents him becoming an adult because he takes his life into his own hands.

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