A Gathering of Old Men

Ernest J. Gaines
Characters

Candy Marshall

Characters Candy Marshall

Candy Marshall is the protagonist of the novel, even though the plot actually has little to do with her self. She is the protagonist because Beau Boutan's murder takes place on her plantation in Mathu's yard. Because of Candy's desire to protect Mathu, she immediately takes charge of the situation by gathering men and shotguns from all around the community. Candy's desire to protect those around her appears compassionate. As the novel continues, her motives seem less genuine. On one level, Mathu is almost Candy's father, since he has literally raised her since the death of her own parents. But, as the novel reveals, her love for Mathu is conditional. Although Mathu has taught Candy about the structure of the plantation, she maintains her sense of superiority over it. When the men announce that Candy cannot be part of their discussion, she threatens to evict them. Her threats demonstrate that Candy still governs the plantation as if she owns its residents. Candy wants to protect "her" people, but refuses to let them protect themselves. Candy's protectionism seems to usurp what the men are trying to achieve. The men want to demonstrate their bravery as men, but Candy wants them to stand as impotent as the empty shells that line their shotguns. Candy's inability to recognize the old men's desire for manhood and Mathu's independent abilities shows that in many ways she still blindly stands as a mistress in the plantation world

Yet, Candy does appear to change within the novel. At the end of the book, she grabs onto Lou Dimes's hand in a gesture of affection. Lou has asked Candy to marry him, but she has never given him an answer. With this notable grab, she seems to be suggesting that she will accept and commit to him. For Candy this change means a relaxation of her domineering attitude. Furthermore, for Candy this change is beneficial and necessary. Candy's aunt and uncle, Bea and Jack Marshall, no longer fit into the changing world with their obsolescent class concepts, but the youthful Candy can re-adapt if she is willing to adjust with the times. At the end of the novel, she appears to be ready.