Analysis

Several complex issues relating to the local social classes become clear in this chapter. Tee Jack is a thoughtful narrator who tries to deeply understand his customers. Tee Jack knows that Jack Marshall looks down on the local Cajuns, but he sympathizes with Jack's desire to remain constantly drunk. Tee Jack believes that Marshall drinks to run away from the burden of his family's history. Unlike Gil Bauton, Jack refuses to embrace the changing world and chooses instead to blur it with drink. In this manner Jack will simply live a useless existence while continually sliding toward obsolescence. Jack's aloof unwillingness to confront change will eventually phase out his social class.

Candy Marshall's status in a superior class becomes increasingly obvious in this section as well. For most of the novel, Candy has acted like she is on a par with the local blacks. Yet in many ways she is blind to her own social situation. Candy may love Mathu, but as a white woman she has never believed himself a member of his social class. Her actions during the novel appear to present her concern for her people, but with her protectionism she is actually asserting a form of benevolent racism that allows her to remain in control. When Clatoo denies Candy's ability to control by telling her that she cannot come to their meeting, she goes crazy. All of her attempts to protect them disappear. Instead she starts hurling threats of eviction. Like a child, she throws an immense tantrum and refuses to walk away from Mathu's house. It is only after Lou physically forces Candy away from the door that the meeting can go on. Candy's overly protective attitude of the men, especially Mathu, testifies to her inability to believe that they can handle the crisis on their own shows that she too doubts their manhood. Candy Marshall may appear to have been a friend, but there is no denying with this chapter that she is also a member of the ruling white class.

The detailed discussion of Luke Will's character illustrates the opposite end of the local white culture. Luke Will is a clear ruffian. Even Tee Jack, who generally sides with his customers, frequently expresses his disdain and even fear of Luke. Luke and his crew are uneducated local laborers who often prey upon local blacks. The scene in the bar exposes Luke as little more than a childish brute. Luke's tendency to place snakes in black churches for example seems to be the act of a child rather than a man; a real man would fight his foes face to face. Likewise, Luke and his crew have come to the bar to get drunk before the lynching. Their need for drink suggests that they would lack the courage needed for the act if they were sober. Luke Will and his crew only can gather their courage by becoming a drunk mob. Overall they are local whites that try to subjugate blacks in order to make themselves feel superior when they are not superior. Tee Jack remarks many times upon the dirt that spreads from these men's hands to their ice, as often they do not wash for days. Luke Will is a frightening, unsavory character. His propensity for violence suggests his own lack of self-confidence and diminished manhood.

Finally, the character of Tee Jack is an important one in the local South as well. Tee Jack is a thoughtful narrator, but he is not a great person. His primary concern is to support what his customers want. When his customers discuss lynchings, Tee Jack happily joins in. When his customers discuss the coming football game, Tee Jack does the same. Tee Jack is not interested in rocking the boat. For this reason, Tee Jack is a man who will never be an instrument for social change, and he will bend whichever way the wind blows. The world is made up of forests of men like Tee Jack who are unwilling to question or act of their own accord. Unlike Gil Bauton, Tee Jack will not be helping to change the South into a more racially harmonious world. Tee Jack's attitude represents that of the masses and suggests the ensuing difficulty and slowness with which social change in the South will come about.