Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Power

By Ernest J. Gaines

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Now we're getting down to it. We can talk about race, we can talk about gender, and we can talk about class—because talking about all of that is super-important—but, at the end of the day, it really all comes down to power: who's got it, what they're doing with it, who wants to take it, and why. Racism, sexism, class discrimination, all of it is related to power—and power is everywhere in <em>A Gathering of Old Men</em>. It's time for a closer look.

Questions About Power

  1. How does Gaines show us who has power and who doesn't in A Gathering of Old Men? Does just who has all the power change?
  2. Is power connected to institutions like the law, or is it in the hands of individual people?
  3. Are there ways that Gaines is showing us that power can be used for good, or can it only be used for evil?

Chew on This

A famous saying tells us that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," but Gaines's novel is showing us that you don't need to have all of the power in the world to do awful things.

The argument could be made that <em>A Gathering of Old Men </em>is really all about power. Race only matters as it relates to social power: who's got it, and who wants it.

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