A Gathering of Old Men
A Gathering of Old Men is a novel that was written by Ernest Gaines in 1983 that surrounds the shooting death of Beau Boutan a Cajun farmer on Marshalls plantation located in Louisiana. Throughout this novel there are many transformations in characters attitudes, but the one character that stands out the most would be Charlie who worked closely with Beau Boutan. This particular novel uses multiple narrators such as blacks, whites, Cajuns, and the old that expresses the different relationships between this Louisiana community during the 1970s in the south. Due to the fact that Cajuns disliked blacks, it was very obvious in this novel that blacks lived in fear. The author Earnest Gaines tends to cite the importance of writing this book in the form of storytelling to express the painful past events of the old men involved (SparkNotes). In addition, Gaines also stated that he grew up around people that told many stories while living on a plantation in order to recreate the rich thick black culture of most black communities (SparkNotes). Earnest Gaines also believed that blacks were normally denied freedom to learn and read, so storytelling would be the only way blacks new to define themselves. Critics of Earnest Gaines in regards to this novel, cover issues surrounding the southern dialect used that only southerners could understand. Many critics believe that northerners and people that are not familiar with southern dialects would not follow the story very well. Further along in the analysis of this novel, I will show why it was important for Gaines to use southern dialects to identify the characters and why it was wise for the old men to arm themselves against the Cajuns.
As a reader in regards to the different dialects used in this novel, would offer more understanding about the different educational levels of most people in the south. The only effect that I believe this novel would have on readers would be to understand each characters dialect with an open mind to learn about their culture or heritage in that era. In regards to why I believe that Gaines used regional phrasing and spelling, would be to match the language to the identity of each character living in south. The south is known for their southern dialect, so with this in mind, the author goes even further to identify ones race and social class in his book. Quotations such as Yall had a round, huh? (Gaines 39), Yall shout? (Gaines 39), "I kilt him, he said (Gaines 61), Fix is going to demand a niggers blood, Candy (Gaines 62), and "He works in mysterious ways, don't He?" (Gaines 29). In regards to this type of language, spelling, and regional phrasing, only Louisiana natives would be able to understand the true meanings. Although the regional phrasing and spelling are not normally considered proper English, I believe that in order to bring the story to life, the characters must be truly represented. With regional phrasing such as the quotations listed above, readers can start understand what type of education level, social status, and social class most characters possessed in order to distinguish ones race.
The one symbol that changed the mood in this novel would be guns. In regards to this novel, guns would either symbolize injustice to blacks from their white counterparts, or ones manhood to defend himself and gain respect. Another mood that changed this novel would be the courage Charlie began to encounter after killing Beau Boutan. Charlie was always known as the character that appeared to be scared of making his white counterparts angry, so he would always follow demands. With a long history of abuse towards blacks in the south, I completely understand why the old men armed themselves with guns.
In conclusion, this novel represented a strong sense of unity among black men by defending themselves with guns against the abuse issue to them by their white male counterparts. This novel also expressed the different levels of social class and dialects that would help the reader to identify each character. As stated earlier, regional phrasing such as the quotations listed above, readers can start understand what type of education level, social status, and social class most characters possessed in order to distinguish ones race. As stated by The New Yorker on the book cover, Early in this eloquent novela sheriff is summoned to a sugarcane plantation, where he finds one young white woman, about eighteen old black men, and one dead Cajun Farmer (Gaines 216). A Gathering of Old Men represents how communities should stand together to force change in society. Although there were multiple characters in this novel, the only characters that appeared to stand out the most would be Candy Marshall which is half owner of the Marshall Plantation, and Mathu which is considered to be the suspect and the strongest black man in the area. Additional characters would cover Mapes who is the sheriff, and Charlie which is the true killer of Beau Boutan. Overall, this novel was excellent, and would recommend that readers that are interested with African American culture past and present read this book.
Gaines, Ernest. A Gathering of Old Men. New York, NY: Vintage Contemporaries-Random House, 1983.
SparkNotes. Ernest Gaines: A Gathering of Old Men. SparkNotes: Barnes and Nobles. Web. 5 July 2009 http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/gatheringofoldmen/themes.html