Critical essay on a gathering of old men

It is an interesting point that though the novel has fifteen narrators, Gaines does not give a narrative voice to any of the three main characters—Mathu, Candy, and Mapes. It is obvious why Mathu is not a narrator. He is the only character who knows who really killed Beau.

Effects of Southern Racism in A Gathering of Old Men

As Gaines has pointed out, "Mathu would have to lie. Mathu knows what happened. And if you start hearing Mathu's voice and he doesn't tell you what happened,.

A Gathering of Old Men 1

We're tricking you, and I'd rather not trick you" Gaines October With all three of the main characters, the technique of coming at them from indirection rather than through their own voices tends to heighten the effect of their involvement and participation in the whole thing.

This is also true with the main Cajun characters the Boutans.

A Gathering Of Old Men – Сustom Literature essay

We see them through the narrative voices of Sully, a friend of Gil Boutan, and Tee Jack, a Cajun bar owner not directly involved in the conflict. Most important, however, is that excluding the main characters as narrators reinforces the folk storytelling technique of relating communally a shared event, with each "teller" bringing his focus or perspective.

Gaines achieves both the immediacy and intimacy of folk storytelling and the complexity of the indirect approach. It is not essential that the reader even remember or identify each narrator.

What is important is relating the shared impressions, fears, feelings, and experiences. Gaines' use of multiple narrators also makes possible the kind of wonderful, understanding humor that he achieves in his short stories, "A Long Day in November" and "The Sky is Gray. The reader becomes an "insider. Most of the novel takes place in the course of one day, and as the events of the day come to a climax, an unexpected climax, we are moved along with the characters to a better understanding of the conflicts and changes that have occurred.

A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines

A Gathering of Old Men is a warm, sensitive, honest novel that combines humor and compassion in dealing with conflict, and only a skillful craftsman who knew these people well could have so successfully handled the fifteen narrative voices to make this technique work. There have been many studies that have analyzed the use of oral tradition in literature and studies on the differences in style in oral and written narratives. Scholes and Kellogg in The Nature of Narrative point out that "many highly original, non-traditional, written narratives offer themselves to us from the printed page as if they were oral performances before an audience" It seems important not only to recognize the differences in oral and written narrative but to understand how a writer makes that transition successfully and what enables him to do so.

Gaines, unlike Mark Twain, says that he is not himself a storyteller in the oral tradition, but a careful listener who can see the difference. In another interview, Gaines said: "I like to listen to the way that people talk, and I like to listen to their stories.

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Then when I get into a little room some place, I try to write then down" Fitz Gerald and Marchant When he became a writer he realized the importance of listening carefully to dialects and finding a way to deal with the Louisiana dialects in writing fiction. He says: "You have to make it readable, you know, you just cannot stick too totally to the way people talk. Because if you stuck to the way people talk along where I come from, I don't know who could read it.

I couldn't read it, if I wrote exactly like that" Laney Gaines learned folk ways and speech patterns directly from the culture, the oral traditions. He learned literary convention, forms, and how to use the things from the oral tradition from models he studied.

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He also realizes the importance of the use of the first person narrators to make the reader a part of the narrative, just as the circle of listeners becomes part of the folk storyteller's performance. Gaines has often said that Twain and Faulkner were the greatest influences on his style in adapting the oral storytelling tradition to the literary medium. In discussing his own creation of a literary work based on oral tradition Gaines has said:. You're transferring from the oral thing, a guy sitting there telling you a story. You have to take what he's telling you and use those twenty-six letters over here to put this thing down accurately.

You try to put it down very accurately.


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  4. Extract of sample "A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines".

But then you know you cannot do it because you cannot use all the gestures; you cannot use all the sounds of his voice, his improper use of syntax, what he does. That does not convey to the reader because the reader cannot understand what you're talking about. I can take what he told me and say, "Okay, I'm going halfway with what he told me, and I'm going to get what I've learned from all these years of reading.

Then I'm going to use proper syntax; I'm going to use proper spelling; I'm going to use all those other little things. I'm going to take from what he gave me and I'm going to use my background; I'm going to use something from over here that I have, and then I'm going to combine these things and then I'm going to put it out there and pray that someone will understand.

Gaines Gaines' style and his ability to capture the French flavor of the speech of the bilingual Creole-Cajun culture give his fiction an authenticity that would not be possible otherwise. This quote by H. Wells is seen in the novel A Gathering of Old Men. The novel, taking place in the s, was in a time in which African-Americans still suffered heavy discrimination. After years of taking this abuse, when an incident comes in which a white man lays dead at the hands of a black man, which would eventually call for a lynching, the discriminated unite.

They show that despite their tortured past, they still possess their bravery, power, and pride.

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This dramatic novel by Ernest J. Gaines, A Gathering of Old Men, written in a critical tone employs the use of characterization, flashbacks, and symbolism to express the theme that there comes a time one must stand up for him or herself. In the book, a character named Mathu is one who does not falter in up keeping his pride.

From the very beginning, he never let anyone insult him because of his African-American heritage. He always stands up for himself, even facing a white man, and never faltered, even when he was sent to jail. Mathu was like a strong rock, the attempts of others at making him submit were but pebbles against his overpowering pride and dignity.


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  • A character that Mathu attempted to instill some lessons on becoming a man was Charlie. Charlie, despite his mild character was a large man towering at 6feet 7inches and weighing pounds. After he killed Beau and ran away, he came back and was ready to atone for his deed. Gaines used this event in the novel to show that even though people might be insulted and beat down, they can still gain enough courage to stand up for themselves. When Charlie did stand up for himself, and became, in his eyes, a man, that eventually led to his death.

    Another character of interest is Candy. Candy is the owner of the place in which all the men gather, and the organizer of the gathering. While she showed little emotion when the other men were called up to Mapes and hit, she was quick to react when Mathu was called. At this point, Candy threatened to have all the men who followed Clatoo kicked out of the Marshall place, their only home. Gaines portrayed Candy in this way to show in this time, the idea of oppressing people still existed in the minds of even those who seemed good-natured. The old men try to deal with a past that they have not yet forgotten and try to gain enough courage to deal with it.

    As each Not a Member? Already a Member? Gaines primary objective in this story is to point Reprogramming such ingrained concepts is not something that will ever be carried th Communism, many in this new generation of Chinese-Americans wanted nothing more than to distance themselves as far as possible fro Lord once of shed, garage and garden, Each with its proper compliment of tackle" As Gaines unravels the reasons why the old black men, as well as the young white woma This is all part and parcel of the postmodern style employed by the Coens, which they use to great effect.

    Postmodernism involves

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