Example research essay topic: Theme Of Racial Tension In A Gathering Of Old Men – 629 words

A Gathering of Old Men begins with a child
narrator who relates the report that there has
been a shooting on a Louisiana plantation, and a
white, Cajun farmer, Beau Boutan, is dead. He has
been killed in the yard of an old, black worker,
Mathu. Because of the conflict between Cajuns and
blacks in South Louisiana, the tension in the
situation and the fear of the black people is
immediately felt. The Cajuns were the greatest
competitor of the black people in Louisiana, but
the Cajuns had the advantage of race in a
segregated society. The author, Ernest J. Gaines,
uses fifteen narrators (white, black, young, and
old) to deal with the changing relations between
the Cajuns and the blacks in Louisiana in the late
1970s.

As each narrator picks up the story, we see
the tensions between the past and the present, the
conflict between the whites and blacks, and most
important, the conflict and tension between each
old black man and his former, younger self as he
tries to deal with why he has waited so long to
face the problem. Mapes, the white sheriff who
traditionally dealt with the black people by the
use of intimidation and force, finds himself in
the frustrating situation of having to deal with a
group of old black men, each carrying a shotgun
and each claiming that he shot Beau Boutan. In
addition, Candy Marshall, the young white woman
whose family owned the plantation, claims that she
did it. There seems to be only one real suspect,
Mathu, the old black man whom Candy is determined
to protect whether he wants or needs her
protection or not. All of the old men have a
motive to kill Beau, but only Mathu is perceived
as being man enough to have done it; he is the
only one who had ever stood up to a white man
before. As each man tells why he shot Beau,
neither the reader nor the sheriff regards him as
a real suspect.

However, we are given an
unforgettable picture of that person in terms of
ghosts from his past. The old men try to deal with
a past that they have not yet forgotten and try to
gain enough courage to deal with it. As each tells
his part of the story, he bravely takes upon
himself the quilt of the past and regains his
pride. Gaines, the author, allows the characters
to reveal themselves and their interrelationships
with others. We hear the story through the
narrative voices of the old black men, a black
woman (Janey), a child (Snookum), and the white
narrators: Lou Dimes, Sully, Miss Merie, and Tee
Jack. We see not only the conflicts of the blacks,
but also the conflicts of their rivals through the
voices of Sully and Tee Jack.

The old world of Fix
Boutan, the leader of a Cajun mob known for
violence toward blacks, has come to an end, and
they must come to terms with a new world
symbolized by Fixs youngest son, Gil Boutan, an
LSU football player whose partner on the football
field is black, the Salt and Pepper of LSU. As
Fixs friend Auguste says, Im an old man, Fix.I
dont know who is right and who is wrong, anymore
(142). Most of the novel takes place in the course
of one day, and as the events of the day come to a
climax, an unexpected climax, we are moved along
with the characters to a better understanding of
the conflicts and changes that have occurred. A
Gathering of Old Men is a warm, sensitive, honest
novel that combines humor and truth when dealing
with conflict, and only a person who knew these
people well could have done such a good job..

Research essay sample on Theme Of Racial Tension In A Gathering Of Old Men