Guidry is both an archetypal white authoritarian and a
decent man. Guidry voices the ignorance, hypocrisy, inertia, and
racism of the people in power in the South of the 1940s.
As town sheriff, Guidry has plenty of power to wield. He resents
any trespasses on his sphere of influence, and he wants to maintain
the status quo in his courthouse and in his society. He believes
that Jefferson should be left to die in happy, animalistic ignorance.
Still, as soon as Jefferson and Grant begin to transcend the roles
that Guidry and other powerful whites assign for them—as soon as
they cease playing the humble schoolteacher and the angry, stupid
criminal—Guidry seems to sense the fragility of his position. His
worldview depends upon blacks conforming to these stereotypes; when
they refuse to conform, Guidry becomes unsure of his footing. Although
Guidry does not repent and change, he does show signs of increasing
sensitivity. His harsh exterior begins to crack and reveal a kindly,
anxious streak. By the end of the novel, he treats Jefferson with
something approaching respect.