Study Guide

Gable Rauand in A Gathering of Old Men

By Ernest J. Gaines

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Gable Rauand

Kind of like Johnny Paul, Gable's got no nickname—probably because he's kept to himself for so long, living all alone in a house behind a row of trees off of the main drag. Like a lot of his pals out at Mathu's that day, though, Gable gets a say. And his story is one of the most heartbreaking stories of all. 

It turns out Gable wasn't always such a loaner. It's safe to bet, though, that what turned him into one was what happened to his kid: 

Gable's son got sentenced to death for supposedly raping a white woman—which everybody, including the ones who were going to throw the switch, knew was a lie. As if that isn't gross enough, the first time they tried to kill him, the electric chair wasn't working the way it should, so they led him back to his cell while they fixed it. Gaines makes it pretty clear, though, that the current had done something to the boy's brain, because Gable tells us that, the whole way back to his cell he kept asking if he was in heaven, saying "Hi, Mr. So-and-So. Hi, Mr. So-and-So. Y'all made it to heaven, too?" (9.165). Then they tried to kill him again. That time, it worked. 

Gable remembers hearing how all of the whites who'd gathered there to watch the execution "like they was leaving a card game," not even talking about what they had just seen because, to them, "it wasn't worth talking about" (9.168). Gaines is doing more than trying to make us feel some serious pain here, though. He's giving us a glimpse, through Gable's story, into a system that is racist and corrupt. He's also suggesting that the kind of racism people of color may encounter in their personal lives lurks inside of institutions and laws, too.

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