Almos’ A Man by Richard Wright, 1939
The magic trick:
Examining the way race plays into a boy’s yearning for the independence of adulthood
Not my favorite Richard Wright. The tragic fatalism is present from the first mention of a gun in the first page. But the stakes never feel as brutal as his stories in Uncle Tom’s Children.
Race isn’t crucial to the conflict here as in those stories. Well, maybe it is. It’s part of the main problem, which is that Dave is a teenager and he is ready to be an independent adult. But of course race plays a huge role in that. He sees the life his father lives, sees the opportunities afforded his family, and he wants something more.
That’s a pretty interesting intersection. And that’s quite a trick on Wright’s part.
“Your ma lettin you have your own money now?”
“Shucks. Mistah Joe, Ahm gittin t be a man like anybody else!”
Joe laughed and wiped his greasy white face with a red bandanna.
“Whut you plannin on buyin?”
Dave looked at the floor, scratched his head, scratched his thigh, and smiled. Then he looked up shyly.
“Ah’ll tell yuh, Mistah Joe, ef yuh promise yuh won’t tell.”
“Waal, Ahma buy a gun.”
“A gun? Whut you want with a gun?”
“Ah wanna keep it.”
“You ain’t nothing but a boy. You don’t need a gun.”
“Aw, lemme have the catlog, Mistah Joe. Ah’Il bring it back.”
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