Manhood by John Wain

This study guide will help you analyse the text “Manhood” by John Wain. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Manhood”
Author: John Wain
Date of Publication: 1980
Genre: Short Story

John Wain (1925-1994) was an English novelist, poet, and critic. He is mainly associated with the “Angry young men” group of writers in the 1950s, who opposed the conservative British society of the time.


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“Manhood”, the title of the short story, indicates that the text is going to be either about a strong, powerful man or a boy’s transition to manhood. Upon reading the story, we realise that the father and the son have different opinions regarding what “manhood” actually means. For the father, “manhood” means being strong, robust and athletic; for the son, “manhood” means rising to his father’s expectations of him, even though he does it through lying.


The exposition presents the two main characters – Mr Willison and Rob – and the context in which they are together: the father pushes his son to continue cycling for a long distance and wishes for him to get over his weakness. From their initial exchange of replies, we can already notice a conflict between them, as the boy simply wants to rest and the man pushes him to overcome his limits.

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Manhood by John Wain

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