Study Guide

Janey in A Gathering of Old Men

By Ernest J. Gaines

Janey

A maidservant and cook who works for the Marshalls, Janey is nowhere to be found when the group has gathered out at Mathu's place. The reason for this is that Janey is absolutely terrified when she finds out that Beau Boutan is dead. That's because she knows that means that Fix is going to be thirsty for blood, and he won't stop until he's spilled a lot of it. She's so terrified, in fact, that all she can do is cry and pray throughout pretty much all of the one chapter that Gaines gives her. 

On one level, Janey's reactions are meant to reinforce just how awful Fix is, and what Beau's murder means for every person of color out at Marshall. On another, though, her reaction represents the attitude that everybody who shows up at Mathu's might have had in the past, but that they sure don't have now. Janey, in other words, is Gaines's way of showing us how mixed individual responses are to situations in the present, based on what they remember of the way things were in the past.