Literature, like most all forms of entertainment, allows for the audience to use their imagination. The time and preparation that goes into producing a novel, short story, or any written work of art is riddled with the thoughts of the author to present the readers with the opportunity of harnessing their own dreams, wishes, and desires. As readers, we see things through our eyes, not necessarily how the author intends us to view them. At only fifty-two years old when he died, the writer had captured the essence of sparking the human imagination. Richard Wright is a master of giving the creative gene growing room and it is very evident in The Man Who Was Almost a Man. Throughout this short story there are instances where a person's imagination is given the chance to escalate beyond what was most likely intended by Mr.
Wright. One of the key elements that consistently is left out is the race of most all the characters. We know from about midway that Dave Saunders is a black teenager, because his mother says to him, "Nigger, is yuh gone plumb crazy" (79). His father also states his race by telling him "N don fergie a hma lam your black bottom good fer this" (203).
By simply knowing one character's race the audience is able to create their own picture from one single detail. Because race, discrimination, and hardship played such an intrinsic and turgid part of Richard Wright's life, he is able to leave out the aspect of race and show how the imagination of his readers gives the story a true essence of feeling the past. The fact that Mr. Jim Hawkins's race is never disclosed gives the inclination that the power of the white race over the blacks at the end of slavery was so strong that the topic was not needing explanation or defining. In 1940, when the story was written, the United States of America was still a very segregated and racist country. With movies such as Birth of a Nation being produced, one could only assume that the people of power and affluence were the whites.
The race factor is most evident by the level of speech that is spoken by the characters. Mr. Hawkins speaks very clearly and educated, such as "Did you ever hear anything like that in all your life" (154). The phonetics of his verbalization is precise and well orchestrated. Whereas in quotes of other characters, such as Dave's mother, the level of education is very clear.
For example, she says to Dave, "Yeah, but ain no usa yuh thinking bout throw in nona it er way. Ahn keeping tha money sos yuh kin have closes t go to school this winter" (Line 74). It is obvious that the lack of erudition has led Mrs. Saunders to be very sharp tongued when it comes to money management, her home, and her family. It is all she has. Most black middle-aged women living in The South at the time of the story were not given the fortuity to receive an education.
Even toward the end of the story, after Dave has shot the mule, Richard Wright does not insinuate as to the race of the townspeople. He merely states "There were white and black faces standing in the crowd." He finishes the scene with Dave crying and "seeing blurred white and black faces" (Line 155). Mixing the color and races gives a sense of coming together; but it also shows that a darker gloomier time is ahead. The colors black and white, when combined, become grey.
This portrays the future of Dave Saunders as being dull and lusterless. The exact reason behind Dave wanting a gun is never truly detailed. The one source of evidence is in the beginning of the story where the narrator says, "Whut's the use talking wide m niggers in the field? ... 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" (Line 1). Dave feels like having a firearm will give him the respect he thinks he deserves. At seventeen, most males were considered adults, but for some reason, Dave is not.
Maybe it is his lack of education or the babying of him by his mother. The reader is not given any more insight into the events prior to Dave walking home from the field. Is this to allow the mind to conglomerate all possible scenarios to make it more personal or for the future reader to feel some what sympathetic? The only sympathy that could be felt is for Mr. Saunders, Dave's father. He is the one that will have to carry the burden of paying off Dave's debt to Mr. Hawkins.
Mr. Saunders is used as an excuse from the very beginning and all the way through to the end. One detail that is left out is the profession of the father. Is he also a ranch-hand or is he maybe working in some other area or fashion? By not telling the reader, Richard Wright leaves the audience wondering if Mr.
Saunders will have to work for Jim Hawkins now that Dave has runaway. Dave's future is inevitable. Just because the story ends with his jumping a train in the middle of the night, we are left with another very clear picture, a lonely young black man with an empty pistol and nowhere to go. He might not have been considered a full man back home, but every place he ventures to afterward will consider him a man.
Once again, the creativity and imagination of the reader is allowed to script the remainder of Dave Saunders's life. Will he make it? Will he ever truly become a man? The only answer lies within the realm of imagination in the next audience to read, "Dave struck out across the fields" (Line 1).