Study Guide

The Professor in A Gathering of Old Men

By Ernest J. Gaines

The Professor

No, we're not talking about the dude on Gilligan's Island who could make a metal detector out of a set of coconuts, but this guy is just as cool. We don't know his name. We don't know if he's got any hobbies. But we do know that he teaches literature at the University of Southern Louisiana in Lafayette. 

We admit that we might be a little biased—after all, we here at Shmoop love teachers—but this is one Ph.D. who isn't afraid to risk a beat-down and argue with a roomful of half-drunk bigots when they start talking about lynching innocent African Americans. And then the guy just sits in Tee Jack's bar sipping his drink until the last possible minute. 

Not only is this guy giving us a lesson in keeping your cool, he represents some of the forces outside of this little patch of Louisiana that are working to fight the backward racism that folks like Tee Jack, Luke Will, and their mutual friends represent. He's only around for what amounts to a hot minute, but he's a presence in the novel we shouldn't ignore.