Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Change

By Ernest J. Gaines

Change

The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes. Deal with it, gang. More helpfully, though, we can tell you that, in some ways, <em>A Gathering of Old Men</em> is all about changes: the passing of time, the shifting landscape, the end of one way of life (or of an actual life), and the beginning of another. Remember—Gaines wants us to take a long, hard look at things like racism and how they affect so many different facets of life, but to do that he's got to keep things moving. In other words, to understand just how stubborn racist ideas are and no matter how long they've been around, we have to see how they continue to impact the present and the future. Change is everywhere in Gaines's novel, and who it affects, and how it affects, tells us a whole lot about a whole lot. Let's dig deeper.

Questions About Change

  1. In what ways do issues of race play into the different changes or kinds of progress we see in A Gathering of Old Men?
  2. In terms of attitudes and ideas, what's changed, and what's stayed the same in the novel? Why do you think that is?
  3. What affects our understanding of "good" vs. "bad" change in the novel?

Chew on This

In Gaines's novel, social changes that have taken place are designed to make the attitudes or ideas that haven't changed even more obvious.

Seldom, if ever, has change historically been good for everybody, and Gaines's novel shows us that pretty clearly.