ENGL 2210 World Literature II

"The Man Who Was Almost a Man" Study Guide

  1. After reading the first paragraph, identify the narrator, the point of view, and the dialect.
  2. How old is Dave? What does he want to buy?
  3. Notice the subtle details Wright gives us, especially smells and reactions of his characters.
  4. What is Dave's mother's reaction to his coming home?
  5. What does the mother think of the catalogue?
  6. What does Dave's father think about it?
  7. What is Dave's mother's response when he asks her if he can buy a gun? How does he ask her?
  8. What are Dave's reasons for wanting a gun?
  9. What does the gun symbolize for Dave?
  10. Can you porovide several examples of symbols from everyday life that represent power?
  11. What is the condition under which his mother will let him buy the gun? Does he keep his promise?
  12. Why hadn't Dave fired the gun when he was out on the fields with it? How does he get around showing it to his mother at breakfast?
  13. Describe Dave's firing of the gun. Describe Jenny's reaction. What had Dave accidentally done?
  14. What does Dave try to do to help Jenny?
  15. What is the explanation he offers for Jenny's death?
  16. What is Dave's reaction when pressed to tell the truth? What is the crowd's reacion when he tells?
  17. What must Dave do to make up for shooting the mule?
  18. What is Dave's father going to do to him?
  19. Why does Dave lie about what he did with the gun?
  20. What are Dave's thought that evening when he can't sleep? What does he do?
  21. What is the most important thing in the world to Dave?
  22. Why does he run away?
  23. What is the meaning of the ending of the story?
  24. Think of the train as a symbol. What do you think it represents?
  25. What does it mean to "accept responsibility for one's actions"? How should one do it?
  26. Provide several specific examples of how Dave is treated by his parents, Mr. Hawkins and by other man that make him feel inferior.
  27. Provide examples of Dave's rebelliousness against his society?
  28. Focusing on aspects of Dave’s character, self-image, and experiences, how do you imagine Dave as a man in his 20's? Defend your answer.
  29. To what extent do you think Dave's parents and his society are responsible for his behavior? Do they keep him from maturing into a man?
  30. List all of the insults he receives from his mother and father, and from others.
  31. List all of the incidents where he is treated like a mule.
  32. At what point (not in the sense of age) in your own life did you feel that you were no longer a boy or a girl, but a man or a woman?
  33. How do your own parents and your society prevent you from becoming a man or a woman?
  34. How do young boys and girls in our society try to escape the pressure that prevents them from growing up into a man or a woman?
  35. Tough question! Is society better off without individuals like Dave? Should they celebrate his departure?
  36. Are individuals like Dave better off away from a society like his?