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A Gathering of Old Men

Ernest J. Gaines

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

full title · A Gathering of Old Men

author · Ernest J. Gaines

type of work · Novel

genre · African-American novel; Southern novel; American modern novel

language · English

time and place written · Southwestern Louisiana, 1980–1982

date of first publication · 1983

publisher · Alfred A. Knopf

narrator · There are fifteen different narrators in the novel. They are: Snookum, Janey, Miss Merle, Chimley, Mat, Cherry, Clatoo, Lou Dimes, Rufe, Sully, Tee Jack, Rooster, Coot, Sharp, and Dirty Red. Lou Dimes, Sully, and Snookum each narrate more than one chapter.

point of view · The fifteen different narrators all describe the events as they see them. These narrators often speak in the first person as they describe their thoughts and ideas. Usually, they speak in the third person about the other characters.

tone · The tone varies according to the character that is narrating the section. Each narrator has a unique voice that matches their identity, with appropriate Southern dialects depending on their race and social class. Toward the end of the book, the tone grows more comedic as the author attempts to bring out notions of absurdity in the final battle and the subsequent trial.

tense · Present tense, with some history given in the past

setting (time) · Late 1970s.

setting (place) · The Marshall Plantation located near the town of Bayonne in Southwestern Louisiana.

protagonist · Candy Marshall

major conflict · The discovery of who killed Beau Bauton and how justice will be served.

rising action · The gathering of the men at the plantation, the meeting between Gil Bauton and his father Fix, the preparation of Luke Will and his crew at a local bar.

climax · The confession of Charlie and the arrival of Luke Will and his crew for a lynching

falling action · The refusal of Sheriff Mapes or Charlie to give in, the shootout between blacks and whites, the death of Charlie and Luke Will, the trial

themes · Redefining black manhood; Changes in social and economic status; Racial interdependence

motifs · Double consciousness; Social distinctions in race; Storytelling

symbols · Tractor; Sugar cane; Guns

foreshadowing · Beau's initial murder, everyone's expectation of Fix's arrival, Candy's appeal for the gathering of old men

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