Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men The Shotguns

By Ernest J. Gaines

The Shotguns

Aiming for Trouble

You're going to need a permit if you want to go around packing a shotgun, but you don't need any kind of fancy paperwork to unpack just why it is those shotguns that keep on coming up over and over again are important.

First of all, the fact that a group of elderly African American dudes have shown up toting firearms sends a clear message to some of the less likeable white characters in Gaines's novel. If you need some proof, just take second look—or a third or fourth—at part of the conversation that Gil tries to have with Fix at the Boutan place. He warms up with talking about what he saw when he stopped at Marshall himself:

"I saw something over there, Papa—something you, I, none of us in this room has ever seen before. A bunch of old Black men with shotguns, Papa. Old men, your age, Parrain's age, and Monsieur Auguste's age, all with shotguns, Papa. Waiting for you."

"N*****s with shotguns waiting for me?" Fix asked. His dark piglike eyes opened just a little bit wider. (12.66-7)

Fix being Fix, he just can't avoid saying some racist stuff, but that's not all that's going on here. It's a safe bet that Gil isn't exaggerating when he says that no white person living in Louisiana has seen anything like the sights out at Marshall Plantation. And you can tell that Fix is more than slightly shocked. The fact that the men have gathered at Mathu's with guns in hand signifies that the way things are isn't the way that things are going to be. It means change. And that change means that the folks getting pushed around aren't going to let themselves get pushed around anymore.

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