Study Guide

Corrine in A Gathering of Old Men

By Ernest J. Gaines

Corrine

In a novel where the women don't seem to say much in general—with the possible exception of Beulah Jackson—old Corrine is probably the quietest of them all. When Snookum runs up to her to tell her that Candy wants everybody out at Mathu's place, in fact, she doesn't even respond to anything that Snookum says. "She didn't say a thing," Snookum tells us. "Just looked old and tired-looking" (1.31). It's important to understand that we're looking at Corrine through the eyes of a young boy (Snookum), so what sounds kind of mean to us is just a little kid not necessarily understanding just why Corrine is silent. 

Then again, even when she does speak up later on, she doesn't really say much. But what she does say is meant to make us stop for a minute or two and think. She doesn't tell us any stories of her own personal losses, pain, or heartache—she tells us about the St. Charles River: 

That river. Where the people went all these years. Where they fished, where they washed their clothes, where they was baptized. St. Charles River. Done gived us food, done cleaned us clothes, done cleaned us soil. St. Charles River—no more though. No more. They took it. Can't go there no more. (9.224) 

Of course, Corrine is talking about more than just a river and what people do with it in the above passage. She's talking about a way of living that was always hard, but has gotten even harder because it's under constant attack. Corrine isn't silent because she has nothing to say. Corrine is silent because her silence represents all of the memories and feelings and pain and sorrow that a person—and a people—can bury deep inside. It doesn't mean those feelings don't exist, it just means that they aren't talked about.