About the author
Watch: Prophets and Poets, a film by Ross Spears /
(Wright’s story was first printed in 1940 in Harper’s Bazaar under the title “Almos’ a Man”and then in Eight Men, a collection of short stories, in 1961, under the title of “The Man Who Was Almost A Man”)
- Identify the narrative voice in the story and discuss its significance. (You may like to concentrate on the first paragraph).
- What do Mr. Hawkins and Joe represent in the story? Justify your claim with examples from the text.
- What does the catalogue in the story symbolize?
- Discuss whether Dave has role models to guide him through his adolescence. Why? Why not?
- What is the symbolic value of Dave’s keeping the gun tied to his thigh?
- Identify what Dave tells Jenny before he pulls the trigger and comment on the significance of this act.
- What is the symbolic value of Dave’s killing the mule?
- Comment on the following quotes from the story: “They treat me like a mule, n then they beat me.”
- Identify when the narrator first lets the reader know about Dave’s surname. Why do you think this could be significant?
- Examine the last section of the story and identify how pulling the trigger successfully affects Dave. Justify your view with quotations from the story.
- What does Dave’s getting on the train symbolize? Do you believe that Dave has become mature at the end of the story? Why? Why not?
- Comment on the significance of the title.
- Writing task 1: In relation to Dave, Dave’s father, Mr. Hawkins, Joe and Dave’s mother, discuss the significance of the gun as a phallic symbol in the story.
- Writing task 2: To what extent would Richard Wright’s story offer a critique of capitalism?
© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, November 2008
Useful link: Study Guide for Richard Wright’s The Man Who Killed A Shadow /