Ahead the long rails were glinting in the moonlight, stretching away, away to somewhere, somewhere where he could be a man.

Dave’s sudden decision to hop on a train comes as an unexpected ending to the typical coming-of-age story and reflects Dave’s deeper struggle with the oppressive social and economic forces of the day. Although Dave’s wrangling to purchase the pistol and then covering up Jenny’s death highlight the struggles of growing up that all teenagers face, the fact that he runs away suggests that Dave also feels oppressed and strangled in his community. He needs more than mere recognition and acceptance—he needs opportunities that field work can’t provide. Running away allows Dave to exert control over his own destiny for the first time in his life, despite the fact that he’s irresponsibly abandoning his family, debts, and commitments like a child. Trying to take control of his life in this way without serious regard to the consequences or future, therefore, makes Dave only “almost a man.”