Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Chapter 1

By Ernest J. Gaines

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Chapter 1

George Eliot, Jr.—a.k.a. "Snookum"

  • We're inside of little George's head for this chapter, and character names are coming at us fast and furious, so get ready.
  • George is a young kid who, at the start of this chapter, is sitting around a table with two older kids named Minnie and Toddy having dinner.
  • Gram Mon—a way Louisiana way of saying "grandma"—is the one serving the food.
  • She hears another character, Candy, call to her from outside, using the name "Aunt Glo" (this tells us that Candy is a relative but is not one of Gram Mon's grandkids).
  • Because he's curious, George tries to get up out of his seat to see what's going on.
  • Gram Mon tells him to mind his own business.
  • As Gram Mon goes to see what Candy wants, Toddy grins at George as a way of making fun of him.
  • George tells us this ticks him off, but Toddy apparently caught him playing "mamma and papa" in the weeds nearby with a little girl, and threatened to tell on George if he doesn't let him do whatever he basically wants to him—laugh at him, hit him, steal his candy, whatever.
  • Once Candy has Gram Mon's attention, she asks if "Snookum" is around (remember: Snookum is George's nickname).
  • Gram Mon asks if Snookum has done anything.
  • Candy just repeats that she needs Snookum to get out there quick.
  • Snookum gets up, and Toddy and Minnie start to get up, too.
  • Gram Mon tells them almost the same thing that she told Snookum earlier, and that they need to sit and eat their turnips. (Mmm, turnips…)
  • Toddy mouths off, and says he's no turnip-eating machine. (Really, who is?)
  • Gram Mon tells him that he better turn into one if he knows what's good for him.
  • Toddy says, apparently to nobody in particular, that George can act as cool as he wants, but that he's got something on our new pal Snookum.
  • Gram Mon gets Snookum on out to see Candy, and it's pretty clear that she's worried or scared about something.
  • She tells Snookum to run and get hold of Rufe, Corrine, and Reverend Johnson and tell them to get to Mathu's house ASAP.
  • Candy also wants him to get to Miss Merle and have her call Lou and for the two of them to get to Mathu's—again, ASAP.
  • Candy says Snookum may have to have Janey call for both Lou and Miss Merle if neither of them are there.
  • Being a kid, Snookum is naturally curious about all these directives, so he asks Candy what's going on.
  • She tells him it's none of his business and he needs to get on it.
  • So, Snookum takes off running.
  • Pretty soon, he sees the front of Mathu's house, and figures that—even though Candy told him not to tell Mathu anything, he should let him know a few folks are coming over.
  • As he goes to find Mathu, he notices that Charlie, somebody who helps the old dude harvest sugar cane, has left two fat bundles of cane tied to a tractor, but that Charlie is nowhere to be seen.
  • Snookum goes around to the yard, and sees this guy Beau lying there covered in blood.
  • He notices that Mathu is standing nearby with a double-barrel shot-gun.
  • Mathu tells Snookum to stay away from Beau.
  • Noticing that the motor to the tractor is running, Snookum asks where Charlie is.
  • Mathu tells him it's none of his business, and that if Snookum doesn't get out of there quick, he'll whip his backside with a switch.
  • As Mathu starts walking toward him, Snookum runs off, pretending he's riding a horse.
  • He finds Rufe and delivers the message.
  • Rufe stops what he's doing and runs like crazy.
  • Snookum finds Corrine and delivers Candy's message.
  • Corrine is way less concerned than Rufe was.
  • He runs over to find Miss Merle, and on the way to where she works—the Marshall House—he's calling for a whole bunch of people to come to old Mathu's place. (Snookum isn't one for following directions too closely).
  • He finds Janey instead.
  • She tells him to calm down because her bosses, the Major and Miss Bea, are trying to sleep.
  • Snookum tells her why he's there, and that Candy wants her to call Lou.
  • Janey tells him he needs to have some manners and call them both Miss Candy and Mr. Lou.
  • Snookum repeats his message again, throwing in a "Miss" and a "Mr."
  • Janey wants to know why Candy's going to all this trouble.
  • Snookum tells her it has something to do with Beau.
  • Janey says she remembers hearing a shot, and asked if that was it.
  • Since nobody wants to tell Snookum anything, he says he doesn't know.
  • Jane is convinced that something terrible has happened, and that someone she calls "Fix" is going to show up with his crew of evil-doers and terrorize the people living in what she calls "the quarters."
  • Snookum asks for a treat for running all the way up there. (Eyes on the prize, kid.)
  • She's so worried that Janey doesn't even respond. She just goes inside the house.
  • Snookum is disappointed he didn't get a nickel or some kind of candy, but he's satisfied that he knows something that Toddy doesn't about what's going on.

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