The Man Who Was Almost a Man
Wright’s use of local dialect provides unique voices for the story’s black characters. Dave and his parents speak with an almost slurring drawl, dropping letters and syllables from their words, in contrast to the white-skinned Joe and Mr. Hawkins, who use more standard English. Although Wright’s use of dialect often makes reading the story difficult, dialect gives the characters vitality and dimension. Readers can actually visualize Mrs. Saunders chastising Dave, for example, when she exclaims, “Lawd, chil, whut’s wrong wid yuh?” Incorporating different dialects into the story also lends a ring of authenticity to Wright’s portrayal of a rural southern community in the early twentieth century, a community in which whites and blacks coexist on unequal terms. Dialect helps separate these two groups, not only reflecting varying degrees of education but also highlighting inequalities in lifestyle and standards of living. As a result, readers are better able to understand Dave’s frustration working on a plantation that affords no opportunities. If he doesn’t escape, he’ll undoubtedly work in the fields for the rest of his life, trapped, just like his father.