A Gathering of Old Men: the Characters in Gaines’ Novel

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Race has always been an issue in Louisiana. The characters in Gaines’ novel attempt to dissolve racial tension in the South. All of the black men gather together at the plantation so the lynching mob won’t attempt to attack them. Salt and Pepper, a black and a white football star, play together at LSU in the novel. This demonstrates racial cooperation. The novel takes place in Bayonne, Louisiana on the Marshall Plantation. The plantation’s white boss, Beau, is found murdered at the start of the novel. Candy Marshall, part owner of the plantation, finds the body near Mathu’s house. Mathu was somewhat of a foster parent to Candy. Candy gathers a crew of old men to the plantation with shotguns and empty shells to confess to the murder. She does this so the alleged killer, Mathu, won’t be lynched. Lynching is how many racial crimes in Louisiana at this time were handled. The old men stay at the plantation all day, not knowing who actually committed the crime. Mapes, a white sheriff, is depicted as a typical racist. He uses aggression towards the men to try to solve the crime. This was the typical approach of Louisiana deputies towards blacks. Towards the end of the novel, Mapes shows that he has great respect for Mathu. In this novel Gaines shows the racial difficulties in Louisiana at this time. This is shown through the fear of the black community. They were afraid of being lynched for a crime they might not have committed. The men all gather together to take a stand against racist whites. He also shows that this was the beginning of racial equality. This is shown by the harmony between Salt and Pepper on and off of the football field. Gaines paints a good picture of the Louisiana lifestyle at this point in history. He shows the racial struggles in law enforcement, daily lifestyle, and sports. Being from Louisiana and knowing what I do about our historical culture I would say that in Gaines’ novel he describes very well what Louisiana life was like at this time....
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