Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Tough-o-Meter

By Ernest J. Gaines

Tough-o-Meter

(3) Base Camp 

As far as the language goes, it's not like you're trying to read The Odyssey in the original Greek when you pick up A Gathering of Old Men. Still, there are times when Gaines takes you so far into the Deep South it may feel like you're visiting an entirely different country. Gaines wants us to be a little disoriented at times, because he wants us to realize that part of what makes racism so dangerous is that it's not nearly as cut and dry as people think. Part of challenging our ideas of how racism actually works is allowing the ones who've experienced it to speak for themselves. That's why, instead of chapters, Gaines gives us sections of the book that come right out of the mouths of the novel's characters—most of them Black. This can be a little challenging at times—like when we get a peek into the mind of a white guy who happens to be a total racist jerkstore bigot—but Gaines wants to take us out of our comfort zone and make us think long and hard about some tough, but important, questions.