Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Tone

By Ernest J. Gaines

Tone

Raise Your Right Hand and… Keep it Simple, Honest, and To the Point

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—that's what you're expected to tell if you're ever a witness testifying in a court of law. That means no frills, no fancy stuff. Just state the facts and do it to the best of your ability.

Okay, so it might seem weird to mention the words like "truth" and "honesty" when we're dealing with a novel where almost every character we meet is lying for about 90% of it. But then again, they've got their reasons. It's up to you to decide if they're good ones—and you've got to come to conclusions about a whole lot more. Did Beau deserve to die? Is there such a thing as justice for a person of color in Louisiana, or anywhere in the U.S.? In other words, Gaines is putting a black robe around your shoulders and slapping a gavel in your hand and making you the judge.

That's why the novel reads like a series of statements given to law enforcement personnel or in front of a jury in a crowded court room. No matter who it is who's doing the talking, you're getting a straight up break-down of what happened at Mathu's place, after the fact. Some of the characters might not have been totally honest with others when everything went down out at Mathu's that fateful day, but everybody is straight-up with us. It comes across in the simple and straightforward way they talk to us.