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A Gathering of Old Men

Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 12: Sully

Chapter 10 and 11

Chapter 12: Sully, page 2

page 1 of 2

Sully narrates this chapter. He drives Gil out to Boutan house on the bayou, an area that is filled with Cajun families. Sully has gone there with Gil before and knows that Gil is very friendly will all the people in the area both white and black. At the Boutan house, Russell, the Sheriff's deputy, meets Sully and Gil in the yard. Russell tells Gil that he is keeping Gil's father, Fix, at the house. Gil invites Russell inside.

The house is full of people. Gil greets his father and some other family members and introduces Sully. Gil tells his father that he drove by the Marshall Plantation. He describes the old black men with guns who appear to be waiting there for Fix. He tells everyone that Mathu may have shot Beau. Some men in the room ask Fix why they have not left already to mete out justice. One man is particularly vociferous, a man named Luke Will.

Gil goes on to tell his father that he does not think that they should handle the matter with their own hands. Gil complains that he often has been associated with his family's violent past, which he does not like. Gil also explains that his football playing depends upon his interaction with a black player, Cal. He will not be All-American and win the game tomorrow if he gets involved in illegal activities tonight. Gil tries to persuade his father that the days of lynchings are over and that times have changed in the South.

Fix takes this news quietly and asks everyone in the room what they think of it. One of Gil's brother's, Jean, also does not want violence because he owns a butcher store in Bayonne and thinks it will hurt his business. Luke Will angrily labels Gil and Jean as cowards and demands justice for Beau's death. Several other men in the room also grow angry at Gil's opinions. Fix insists that as the head of the household he will decide what will happen, but he will not act unless all his sons are behind him. Fix questions one of his old friends, Auguste. Auguste concludes that they are old men now, but that they could still do something if they want. Fix argues with Gil's loyalties to his family. He points to a grieving woman and child, Beau's widow and son, near him. Gil insists that the law should handle it. Jean remains on Gil's side, even though Luke Will and some other men in the room keep labeling them cowards.

Soon after, Fix grows angry that Gil and orders Gil to leave the house. Gil is deeply distressed and insists that his ideas are not wrong. When he gets near the door, Russell, the deputy, tells Gil that Gil is doing the right thing and justice will be better served for Beau's son if Gil plays football the next day with Cal and shows the world that white and black people can work together. Gil feels despondent and cannot decide what to do. He turns away Sully's request to drive him somewhere.


This chapter cuts to the core of issues behind racial violence within the South. The narrative shifts to the heart of Cajun country, the Boutan's house. Sully emerges as a quasi-objective narrator who will be able to record the people and dialogue without bias.


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