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The Man Who Was Almost a Man

             In "The Man Who Was Almost a Man," Richard Wright uses many details to create a sense of poverty and entrapment. This is a story of a young man's growth towards mental and psychological maturity after one very influential incident. The main character, David, is a young black man of seventeen who labors on a plantation. He feels that he gets no respect as an adult from his co-workers or his family members, and decides that he needs a gun in order to be a man. After a horrible accident involving the gun, he is only further treated as a child, and decides to jump a train out of town. The reader is constantly reminded of the sense of poverty and entrapment through Wright's descriptions of family life, plantation work, and indications of racial tension. The main character's life revolves around his family. David's family is poor. They are so poor and unfurnished that they use their hands to eat their dinner. David's mother even suggests using a newly acquired Sears catalog as toilet paper. Without a second thought about it, she says: "We kin use it in the outhouse" (2249). His mother also makes the household very entrapping by demanding that David be home at specific times, and scolding him when he is late. She gives him money to buy a gun, and then insists that he come right back home saying: "Yuh bring it right back t me, yuh hear? Now ef yuh don, Ahma have yuh pa pick yuh so hard yuh won fergit it" (2251). Even after David shoots the mule, he finds himself trapped in guilt after his mother reveals his lie. At this point, even David's plantation co-workers gather around him, symbolically trapping him in his mistake. Richard Wright's description of southern plantation work includes a few details that emphasize the worker's real poverty and symbolic entrapment. David plows the fields strapped into the plow straps and being pulled by a mule. David walks " behind the plow, hearing the traces creaking- as the oldest mule on the plantation plods ahead.

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