A Gathering of Old Men

Ernest J. Gaines
Characters

Beau Bauton

Characters Beau Bauton

Beau Bauton is dead throughout the entire novel, but is one of the most important characters due to his symbolic role. Beau represents the social order that has subjugated the blacks throughout history. All of the old black men believe Beau to have been closely linked to violence events in their past—daughters raped, sons killed, and friends attacked. No proof clearly ties Beau to each specific act, but it does not matter. Based upon the remembrances of the characters, it is clear that Beau is not a gentle figure. Charlie describes that Beau started hitting him with a stalk of sugar cane because Beau did not like the way Charlie was working. Beau's use of force for such a minor issue shows that he believed in the outdated technique of using violence to subjugate blacks. Furthermore, after Charlie hits Beau back, Beau prepares to murder him. In Beau's mind, shooting Charlie with a shotgun is an appropriate response to Charlie hitting him with sugar cane. This logic is misguided, outdated, and racist. Because this logic no longer fits into the new social order, it seems somewhat appropriate that Beau is dead.

Beau Bauton also is the primary symbol of the agricultural changes that have forced the blacks off their ancestral land. Beau and his family brought the tractors that reduced the need for black labor. Beau and his tractor run the plantation, but they do so inefficiently. The land is covered with weeds and sugar cane grows wildly in some regions. With the change in the agricultural system, the local black culture has died. The old men realize Beau's role in changing their livelihood and resent it. Beau's death will not change the economic shift, however. Even though he lies murdered, for much of the book the tractor he uses is still running. The Cajuns have pushed out the local blacks and it is unlikely that the black community will ever thrive as it once did. Still the old men can gain a certain satisfaction n the death of the cruel Beau Bauton.