Dave's Dream

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In Richard Wrights short story The Man Who Was Almost a Man, Dave, a seventeen year old African American male has a strong desire to prove that he is a man. He works with other black men in the fields owned by a white man, Jim Hawkins. At seventeen Dave believes hes ready to be his own man and that having a gun would make him a man. The gun acts as a symbol of Daves dream of manhood. As the gun evolves in Daves life, Dave becomes more of a man.

The presence of the gun is a powerful one in Daves life. The gun begins its existence when Wright tells us, One of these days [Dave] was going to get a gun and practice shooting, then they couldnt talk to him as though he were a little boy. Its clear that Dave believes that the gun is his bridge to adulthood when Wright said that if Dave had a gun, he wouldnt be regarded as a child.

Dave seems to think being a man is a result of having power. Wright refers to Daves physical size inhibiting his advancement to manhood and reducing his power. Shucks, Ah aint scareda them even ef they are biggern me! (Man, 16) He also tells us that Dave isnt even in charge of his own affairs, and hardly even his own life Mebbe Ma will lemme buy [a gun] when she gits mah pay from ol man Hawkins. Ahma beg her to gimme some money (Man, 16). This statement clearly tells us that Dave doesnt manage the money he earns from working as a field hand. Finally, Wright also implies that Dave isnt regarded as a man because of the way people talk to him. Whuts the use in talkin wid em niggers in the field... then they couldnt talk to him like he was a little boy (Man, 16). Dave thought that the gun would solve all three of these problems.

Dave believed that after solving these problems, he would finally be seen as a man. Having the gun would make him more physically powerful [Dave] could kill a man with this [gun]. Kill anybody, black or white (Man, 1-1400). The increase of physical power would make him more of a threat to the other black fieldhands as well as his white boss. They would respect him as a threat If he were holding his gun in his hand, nobody could run over him; they would have to respect him (Man, 1400). With the respect would come equality; they wouldnt talk to and treat him like a little boy, but a man with enough power to be a man.


At this point owning the gun is only a dream. Dave had thought up a quick plan to try and obtain his dream Ah know whut Ahma do. Ahm going by ol Joes sto n git that Sears Robuck catlog n look at them guns (Man, 16). By getting this catalogue the gun changed from being a simple word that was his dream to being a picture�the first manifestation of his dream. Joe at the store offers to sell Dave a gun after Dave told him he wanted to by one from the catalogue Say, if you wanna buy a gun, why dont you buy one from me? I gotta gun to sell (Man, 17). Joes offer to Dave only makes the pictures in the catalogue more real, his dream more achievable.

Dave managed to get the money to buy Joes old gun, his dream of having the gun finally fulfilled. Dave slept with the gun somewhere it could influence his new dreams, under his pillow The first movement he made the following morning was to reach under his pillow for the gun. In the grey light of dawn he held it loosely, feeling a sense of power (Man, 1). He finally had his symbol of his power, of his manhood. He could feel the power the gun could give him. When Dave decided to take the gun with him to work, he tied it to his thigh. He promoted his acquired dream to being a part of him.

Once Dave was out near the woods he stopped working and brought out his gun Lissen here, Jenny! When Ah pull this ol trigger, Ah dont wan yuh t run n acka fool now! (Man, 1400) Those were the last words he said before he decided to try to prove his manhood. He needed to stop imagining his dream and start living it. Dave needed to go through some private ceremony to be able to live his dream. All he had to do in this ceremony was fire the gun then he would finally know how to use its power to make him a man.

Right before he shot [Dave] told himself, Ah ain afraid. The felt loose in his fingers; he waved it wildly for a moment. Then he shut his eyes and tightened his forefinger. Bloom! (Man, 1400) So his ceremony began. He imagined that he had done everything right. Or at least he thought he had set everything up correctly. This ceremony of his didnt go very well as Dave had hoped A report half deafened him and he thought his right hand was torn from his arm (Man, 1400). Its clear something went wrong. This was supposed to make him feel strong, powerful, like a man. But instead, his hand has been ripped from his arm or at least it felt that way. Daves hand was only numbed from the ferocious bite of the pistol.

Dave looked down and the gun lay at his feet... [Dave] stared at the gun as though it were a living thing (Man, 1401). Daves dream, his gun, his manhood, had suddenly become a nightmarish beast. Daves ceremony that was intended to move him into living his dream only instead cast him into a nightmare. The beast he unleashed decided to add a little real-world effect by harming Jenny, the mule Dave had brought out to plow the fields with. Then Dave stopped short, looking, not believing. Jenny was bleeding (Man, 1401). His failure inflicted Jenny with a mortal wound.

Jenny bled to death, leaving a serious wall between Dave and his manhood. The only thing he could do to try to get rid of the nightmare was to bury it. He picked up the gun and held it gingerly between his thumb and forefinger. He buried it at the foot of a tree (Man, 1401). After he hid away his nightmare, which had already left its mark on Daves life, he went back across the fields slowly, with his head down (Man, 140). Dave was defeated by this nightmare.

The gun was out of Daves life for a little while, its painful mark left behind. Dave thought he could avoid anyone finding out about the gun and maybe guessing that he shot the mule Somethin musta been wrong wid ol Jenny. She wouldn ack right a-tall... Then when the point of the plow was sticking up in the air, she swung erroun n twisted herself back on it (Man, 140). That was Daves last defense against humiliation.

His plan was mostly working until his family showed up and one of the men burying Jenny noted that the wound looked like a bullet wound Dave, whut yuh do wid the gun, his mother chimed in well in time to drop all potential beliefs in Daves previous story (Man, 140). Gun, the very last work Dave could bear to hear at the moment. This word to him was no longer the word representing his manhood. Now it represented something completely different�it represented his foolishness and the nightmare his dream had turned into.

His father had to threaten to start beating him right there for Dave to finally confess Ah wuzn shootin at the mule, Mistah Hawkins. The gun jumped when Ah pulled the trigger... N fo Ah knowed anythin Jenny was there a-bleedin (Man, 140). That was his confession, his confession of his actions that lead to him being degraded further, throwing him further from his goal to become a man Looks like you bought yourself a dead mule (Man, 140). All it took was that line for the laughter to start flooding in�painful destroying laughter. Laughter that a foolish child would receive, not a man, not the man Dave wanted to become.

Dave knew he had to try his ceremony again, and finally become a man. But he had to face the nightmare that possessed his dream, and he had to defeat it [Dave] turned over, thinking how he had fired the gun. He had an itch to fire it again (Man, 140). It was either that or facing his fathers punishment and the humiliation of having to work for two years just to pay off the dept he owed Jim Hawkins for the mule N Pa says hes gonna beat me... He remembered the other beatings, and his back quivered (Man, 140). Dave felt that nothing good could come out of his situation if he stayed. So he decided to ignore what had happened earlier.

Dave thought Ef other men kin shoota gun, by Gawd, Ah kin... Yes, Now! He would go down and get that gun and see if he could fire it (Man, 1404). Dave had made up his mind. He was going to try his ceremony again. He knows that other men can shoot guns, so if he can shoot the gun, then he would be equal with other men. Thus, he would be a man and he could have his dream back and actually live it.

Dave ran back to where he had buried the gun, recovered the object that created the nightmare that was engulfing his dream Like a hungry dog scratching for a bone, [Dave] pawed [the gun] up. He puffed his black cheeks and blew dirt from the trigger and barrel (Man, 1404). Now he had this nightmare in his hands and he was ready to face it again and try to defeat it. Dave was ready to try his ceremony again, this time facing the nightmare and looking for his dream With effort he held his eyes open; then he squeezed. Blooooom! He was stiff, not breathing. The gun was still in his hands (Man, 1404). Success! Dave had successfully fire his gun.

Dave had finally managed to cast away the nightmare and see his dream again. Things had begun to go his way. Dave could finally wield the tool of power he held. Now that he could wield such power, he could be an adult. He shot off the remaining three rounds, confirming his ability to use his newfound power.

Now thinking [Dave] stood rigid. Two dollahs a mont. Les see now... Tha means itll take bout two years. Shucks. Ahll be dam (Man, 1404). He knew that he couldnt be a man here. He couldnt be respected as one at least. He heard a train starting to approach, and he headed down towards the tracks [Dave] gripped the gun tightly; then he jerked his hand out of his pocket... He hesitated just a moment; then he grabbed, pulled atop of a car, and lay flat. He felt his pocket; the gun was still there (Man, 1405). His choice to keep the gun was his way of bringing his power and manhood with him, to wherever he was going. He was going away, leaving his childhood behind. The gun, his dream, his manhood, was now a permanent part of him.

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