A Gathering of Old Men Paper: Stereotypes and Dynamic Characters
The definition of a stereotype is an author's method of treating a character so that the character is immediately identified with a group. Gaines uses an abundant amount of stereotyping in A Gathering of Old Men. Both white and black characters are stereotyped. But as we continue reading we see that most of the main characters dont fit there stereotypes by the end of the novel.
Both blacks and whites are stereotyped in this novel. The whites are stereotyped as traditional southern whites so the reader could better identify them. They represent the typical southern white person in the 1970s. Mapes is a stereotypical southern sheriff, fat and a classic racist. He is always sucking on a piece of candy throughout the novel, and in the beginning of the novel he uses violence to try and interrogate the blacks. Griffin, his deputy, also fits under this stereotype. Other whites like some of Fix's family and Luke Will and his gang are seen as violent and biased. They fit under the southern redneck stereotype. The other whites like Candy, Miss Merle, Jack and Bea all fit under the stereotype of the southern plantation owner in one way or another. They all see themselves as superior over the blacks even though they aren't prejudiced. They all have servants, and in the women's case, they are shown to be bossy and domineering towards the blacks. Each white character in A Gathering of Old Men represents some different aspect of the stereotypical southern white person of the time.
The blacks on Marshall are unfairly stereotyped as a group by the whites. They as a whole are seen as poor, servile, ignorant, simpleminded, cowardly and/or inferior to the whites. They all fit under the stereotype of southern blacks during the 1970s. None of the black men except Mathu are seen as real men. Even Mathu looks down on the other old men because of this. Candy sees them all as children who can't take care of themselves and need protecting. Mapes sees them as not real men and stupid for trying to stand up for once. Griffin sees them as inferior and unworthy. The Cajuns see them as inferior servile and not worthy. Each black person represents a different aspect of the stereotype of the southern black, but only to the whites. As we delved deeper into each one of the blacks individual perspectives, we learned that each one had a story and that their personalities were markedly different from their outside actions and manners toward whites. Each one of the blacks had a double consciousness or a dual identity. Their inside personalities were reserved for themselves and for other blacks and their other personality which was more cowardly and servile was meant for the whites to see. The blacks were never what the whites saw them as on the inside and by the end of the novel through their changes the blacks dont lose their dual identities, but the two personalities become closer.
There are very few static characters in A Gathering of Old Men. The few that there are the characters like Jack and Bea Marshall and Griffin. Otherwise almost everyone else is a dynamic character, including the group of old men. By the end of the novel most of the characters dont fit into their stereotypes because they change in one way or another. The Blacks by then end of the novel make a substantial change. The men including Charlie obtain their courage when they fought the whites. The blacks were no longer servile or cowardly. They no longer represent the classic southern black person; they are starting to represent the new black person. Mathu also changes; he changes from being a grumpy old man who looks down on the other men because they arent courageous and they were tainted with white blood. At the end of the novel, he sees that he isnt superior over the other blacks. Some of the whites also change. Candy no longer sees the blacks as children and she loses her racist opinions of them. From the beginning, Mapes never really fit into his stereotype completely. We later learned that he wasnt as racist as we thought he was and that he was a much more complicated and round character than previously thought. By the end of the novel, he finally sees the blacks as real men and starts to respect them. The racist Cajuns also change; they now realize that times are indeed changing and that the time of lynch mobs and vigilantism is over. The parish finally is catching up with the rest of the world.
So as you can see, most of the characters lost the stereotypes that previously defined them. We either learn that the character was too complicated to fit the stereotype, or that the character was a dynamic character that changes out of their stereotype.