By the time the novel ends, you've spent so much time with
the folks out at Marshall that you can probably see "the bushes and weeds,"
that grow "so tall that the road […] seems no wider than a king-sized
bedsheet," as clearly as if they were right outside your own window (8.3).
Maybe you're even craving a few of those pecans that characters keep
That's why it might come as a surprise to you that, in the
final chapter, Gaines takes us out of Marshall and puts us inside a courtroom
in a big city. And after we've spent so much time with so many of the old men (and
we haven't even heard from all of them), it also might come as a surprise to
you that we end with an image of Lou Dimes and Candy standing together as they
watch Mathu and his pals drive away in Clatoo's pick-up
Remember: Gaines's novel is all about the characters, their
relationships, and what those characters and those relationships represent.
Candy and Lou are a great example. Candy embodies that next generation of
Southern white folks, rooted to a single spot and still stuck in a really
old-fashioned way of thinking. Lou, meanwhile, represents the world outside of
all of that, even a way out of all of that—a new and more enlightened way of
understanding how things work.
Oh, and it's also worth remembering that they had a nasty
fight not too long before we see them again. The fact that they're holding
hands signifies that what's gone down at Marshall has created the possibility
of the worldview that Candy represents changing for the better, which is Gaines's
way of telling us that a better and brighter future is possible. Heck, we even
learn that Gil is sitting with his family watching the trial, which tells us
that even Fix has come around to at least kind of accepting the fact that his
son doesn't think the way he does.
So how do Mathu and his pals figure into all of this? Well,
the ending represents a new start for all of them, too. They've proven that
they can take a stand, fight back, and take control of their own lives. That image of all of them driving away together is meant to
show us that this whole experience has made an already tightly-knit community
come even more closely together. All in all, it's a pretty happy ending—but it's
still one that's designed to make us think.