IWU The Man Who was Almost a Man discussion

3.4 The Individual and the Community



For this discussion, you will explore how setting, diction, metaphors, similes, symbols, and characterization are used by Richard Wright to communicate truths about the nature of manhood.

Upon successful completion of this assignment you will be able to:

  • Identify examples of setting, diction, metaphors, similes, and symbols.
  • Explain how various literary devices may be used to communicate truths about the struggle of a boy to become a man in the context of his community.
  • Evaluate literary discoveries about human nature using your own experience.



Read the Biographical Headnote on Richard Wright (pp. 205-208).

Read Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” (pp. 211-220) in
The Pearson Custom Library of American Literature.

Navigate to the threaded discussion and respond to the following:

  1. How does Dave define manhood? What does he think he needs to do in order to become a man?
  2. In your opinion, is Dave more of a man or a boy at the beginning of the story? What criteria do you use to form this opinion?
  3. What you think the gun symbolizes in this story? Explain your answer.
  4. When Dave climbs onto the train at the end of the story, is this evidence of his manhood or of his boyhood? Explain your answer.
  5. Do you think Mr. Hawkins’ proposal for repayment of the mule is fair? Does he seem to be treating Dave as a man or as a boy? Explain your answer.
  6. Identify as example of irony in the story and explain how is used to achieve a message in this story.
  7. In your opinion, has Dave changed at the end of the story? If so, how has he changed, and is it a positive or negative change? If not, then what does Dave symbolize, based on his character traits?
  8. What do you think the message of Wright’s story is? Do you agree or disagree with the message? Explain your answer with specific reference to the text.