Study Guide

Mrs. Beatrice Marshall in A Gathering of Old Men

By Ernest J. Gaines

Mrs. Beatrice Marshall

If there's anybody even more useless than Major Jack, it's his wife Beatrice. For starters, while the Major is passed out drunk, Bea—who is seriously absent-minded and should probably be in a nursing home—is out in back of the main house at Marshall poking around in snake-infested weeds for a few loose pecans. Considering that, back in the day, the wife of any plantation owner ran the house with an iron fist and could be even crueler than her husband, a half-crazy old lady looking for nuts doesn't quite convey all of that. 

Add to that the fact that she's more concerned about where her next gin cocktail is coming from than the fact that her niece Candy is claiming that she murdered someone. Yep, old Bea is pretty pathetic indeed. Like her husband, Major Jack, Mrs. Bea represents that same old-school order with rich white folks on top and people of color way down at the bottom. And again, like her husband, she's supposed to show us that the very same old-school order is pretty much worthless today.