Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Women and Femininity

By Ernest J. Gaines

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Women and Femininity

Women make up over half of the world's population and, well, let's face it: if it wasn't for women none of us would be here. History is also full of tough and totally awesome women. Sure, there's still a long way to go, but we've come a long way since the days of TV smiling housewives vacuuming in make-up and heels. In the world we see in Gaines's novel, you could say that there's a little farther to go. We mean, sure, we get it—the title of the book is <em>A Gathering of Old Men</em>, but women are important too. Let's give the women in Gaines's novel a closer look.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. How would you describe the space that Gaines creates for women in his novel? Are they seen as equal to men?
  2. Are there any similarities in gender roles that cross the boundaries of race?
  3. Is it fair to say that Gaines is more concerned with issues of masculinity than with femininity in his text? Why?
  4. Why are there no young African American women in Gaines's novel?

Chew on This

In <em>A Gathering of Old Men</em>, Gaines refuses to allow his female characters the voice that he gives to his male characters, and women are often portrayed as passive or helpless.

In their interactions with the novel's female characters, the male characters in the novel behave similarly regardless of racial or class differences.

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