Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Chapter 5

By Ernest J. Gaines

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Chapter 5

Matthew Lincoln Brown—a.k.a. "Mat"

  • Mat's chapter takes starts off with Mat finally home after he and Chimley have said their good-byes.
  • After he hands his sack of fish to Ella, Mat phones up Clatoo.
  • Clatoo's daughter Julie picks up. She lets Mat know that Clatoo has just left after Miss Merle called him up on the phone.
  • Obviously concerned, Julie asks what's going on.
  • Mat says that, if Clatoo didn't say anything, he sure isn't going to say anything either.
  • For whatever reason, Julie seems okay with this, and tells Mat that she overheard Clatoo say something to Miss Merle about a couple of dudes named Jacob Aguilard and Billy Washington.
  • She tells Mat that he might be able to catch Clatoo out at what she calls the old "Mulatto Place" ("mulatto" is an outdated word for describing somebody of bi-racial descent—not cool to use, by the way).
  • Mat hangs up and dials Billy Washington's place.
  • Selina—Billy's wife—says he's already taken off with Clatoo.
  • Mat also asks her if Billy had his gun when he left (he did).
  • She tells Mat that he might be able to catch Billy—once again—at the old "Mulatto Place" because she heard Jacob Aguilard's name mentioned.
  • Selina gives Mat the number of Leola Bovay, a neighbor of Jacob's.
  • When Mat gets hold of Leola, she tells him that Clatoo has just pulled up and that Billy Washington is with him.
  • Mat asks her to get Clatoo to wait (which she does).
  • He also asks her if she's got a 12 gauge shotgun and some number 5 shotgun shells.
  • Leola says her dead husband left some guns and ammunition lying around, but that she couldn't tell one kind of gun or type of round from another.
  • Apparently never too shy to ask a favor, Mat asks Leola to take the stuff out to Clatoo and have him try to find the right kind of shotgun and shotgun shell.
  • Still trying to figure out what's happening, Leola asks Mat what exactly is going on.
  • Mat tells her she can ask Clatoo (we don't know if she ever does).
  • Mat goes to meet Clatoo at Jacob's place.
  • Ella, his wife, asks him what's going on.
  • Trying to lie, and not doing a good job of it, Mat tells Ella he's going hunting with some of the guys.
  • Ella doesn't buy it, and tries to pump Mat for more details.
  • Mat finally tells her the basics: this white Cajun dude is dead in front of Mathu's house.
  • Ella puts two and two together and figures out what a bunch of dudes getting together with guns means. She tells Mat that she'll call his brother Jesse and get him not to go.
  • Mat pulls the phone out of the wall after he threatens to hit her if she involves his brother.
  • Seeing that Mat is really, really upset, Stella asks him what's going wrong with him.
  • Mat tells her that he's spent years being abused and exploited, that he's done all kinds of horrible things because he felt too weak and helpless to do anything about it. He's gotten sick of it.
  • He also reminds her about their son, Oliver, who died because he did not receive the medical attention he needed in time because no white doctor would work on him.
  • That, says Mat, is what's wrong with him. Crying now, he tells Ella he wants to stand up and fight for a change.
  • Mat wipes his face off, goes outside, and gets in the truck.
  • Along with Clatoo—who's dressed in a white collared shirt with a clean bow-tie and slacks—are Billy and Jacob, along with Mat's pal Chimley and this other dude named Cherry Bello.
  • There's a little light conversation. They all say that they haven't told anybody—including their wives—anything.
  • Mat asks if all the guys there have fired off a round so they could all have an empty shell.
  • Cherry says he's waiting until they all get to the field. He says he might see a rabbit he can kill for food.
  • Cherry tells Mat that Clatoo is going to drop them off and that they're going to walk to a place where they're supposed to wait for Clatoo to come with another truck load of people.
  • Mat goes off on kind of a tangent about his pal Chimley and then asks Chimley how he's doing.
  • Chimley just says he's scared, but that he's there.
  • Mat feels like he knows everybody there is proud to finally be "doing something different for the first time," which is standing up and fighting for themselves.

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