A Gathering of Old Men
A book review by Jessica Chou
On a quiet day in mid summer, a gunshot was heard, if not around the world, then at least over a small town in Louisiana. A prominent white man named Beau, the son of a powerful and cold racist who goes by Fix, is killed in supposed cold blooded murder. The sheriff arrives at the scene, and knows two things: Where the murder was committed and how it was committed. The question is, Who done it?
Sixteen old black men and the young white daughter of the old plantation owner are all at the scene of the crime, each stubbornly repeating that they had shot Beau for various reasons: hatred, revenge, anger, contempt, fright...
Before the sheriff and his toady come, the young woman, Candy, pleads against her old, black, and stubborn friend Mathu to tell her who had done it. He simply tells her to go home each time, giving an unsatisfactory reply and yet at the same time one that she wishes she could accept. She calls all the black men in the county, each to bring the exact same gun. After they arrive at the scene of the crime, they wait for the sheriff.
Once the sheriff arrives, he thinks he knows who did it, but without proof, who can he put into the electric chair? He hopes that he can jail the killer before Fix and his cruel friends decide to take matters into their own hands.
Meanwhile, Fix, his other sons, and their friends are having a heated discussion on what to do. Some are all for finding and hanging the murderer, while others, including Fixs own sons, want to let the law deal with them, and to start changing with the times and accept the unavoidable reality that the white race eventually will lose the fear of the blacks. Finally, a few of them do decide to take matters into their own hands and go out to hunt down the nigger and give him what they think he deserves.
Everyone is astonished and surprised after the murder is solved, not at the least of which are the black men, and at the end everyone learns about the importance of courage, strength, and pride.
When I read this book, I found that the layout and structure was very interesting, and I was thrown into further awe of Ernest J. Gaines. It was fasinating to me how Gaines managed to have such different points of view for each person. Even though every character was similar in an obvious aspect (They are Southern people through and through) their overall personalities were unique and interesting.
I would recommend this book to young adults fourteen and older, because the book has deeper meanings and themes that younger children might not understand, such as standing up for what you think is it right in the face of evil, and that you should always know who and what you are, and that no matter what you look like or the color of your skin, you shouldnt degrade yourself in any way.
I think everyone should read this at some point in their life to better understand the harshness and cruelty of racism against blacks.