Dave’s character showed many different characteristics. All he thought about was being looked at as a man, and in his head becoming a man meant owning a gun. “Shucks, a man oughta hava little gun aftah he done worked hard all day” (Wright). At the beginning of the story, Dave is mad at the white men that he works with and is angry about the way that they talk and treat him. After that, Dave’s top priority was purchasing that gun from Mistah Joe at the sto so that he could show those men that he was also a man and was to be treated like one. He wanted his gun and he got it after he plead and plead to his mother now he was a man, at least to himself he was. It is understandable that Dave wanted to become a man. Being treated as a man is almost every kids dream, but it was just too early for Dave to become a man, and he needed more than a gun, he needed for himself to mature. In the scene when Dave accidently shoots Jenny, the old mule he really screws up. Dave notices that in the town where he lives, he may have more than likely blew his chance on becoming a man. He analyzes his situation and says, “Ah betcha Bill wouldn’t do it! Ah betcha….. Ahm ridin yuh ternight, so help me Gawd” (Wright). In this quote Dave decides that it is time to try and become a man somewhere else. His concept of a person that owns a gun is considered a man just didn’t work out for him. And with nothing else to do he decides to run and try to see where the train takes him to become a man.
“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” can also be analyzed by the symbolism of the gun. For Dave the gun represents independence, and having the respect that a man has. “Whut’s the use talkin wid em niggers in the field? Them niggers; can’t undertan nothing. One of these days he was going to get a gun and practice shooting, then they couldn’t talk to him as though he were a little boy” (Wright). In the eyes of Dave the gun fixes all his problems and relieves him of any future ones. But the only thing that the gun does when he gets his hand on it is everything but what he wanted. Dave hates that the other people that are working the field just like him treat him as if he were a child. In response to that problem Dave thinks that owning a gun will resolve that problem because then it won’t matter who’s bigger and who’s not. What will matter is that he will be the one with the gun. He misunderstands the fact of owning a gun because he thinks that not only will it make him a man, but it will also make him become or at least seem to be more independent and more important. Near the end of the story in the scene when Dave can finally shoot the gun without keeping his eyes shut. Dave fantasizes about shooting at Mr. Hawkins’s house if he had more ammo. “Lawd, ef Ah had jus one mo bullet Ah’d taka shot at tha house. Ah’d like t scare ol man Hawkins jusa little…….. Jusa enough t let im know Dave Saunders is a man” (Wright). The fact that Dave imagines himself shooting at Mr. Hawkins’s house is disturbing because it’s kind of an omen pointing toward Dave getting into some trouble. The gun has made Dave want more power and in the end it takes control of him because he has to leave to find where he can become an independent man.
Another way to analyze The Man Who Was Almost a Man is through the Family relationships in the story. It is clearly obvious that Dave is closer to his mom because when his dad came in to the kitchen he hid the sears catalog that mistah Joes had let him borrow. Some of the few reasons why are because he has the courage to go to her and ask her for money to buy the gun from Joe at the sto.” N it done cos but two dollahs? That’s all, ma. Jus tow dollahs. Please, Ma.” Then his mom said “ Ah’ll let yuh git tha gun ef yuh promise me one thing” (Wright). Although Dave never kept his word on bringing the gun back, his mom never bothered him that much for the gun. The narrator made it seem as if it was common for Dave to get what he wanted from his mom. In Dave’s family the person in charge of the money and is the one who holds the money. And more than likely Dave’s mother may also keep his father’s pay check. Mistah Joe said, “I’ll let you have it for two dollars.” Then Dave said, “Just two dollars? Shucks, Ah could buy tha when Ah git mah pay” (Wright). Dave still had to get his mom to give him the money because she was the one who would hold his pay for him. Maybe during these times the mother would keep the money so that neither the father nor the son could spend it on beer or whatever else and leave the family with no money left for anything that the family needs to get through until the next pay check.