A Gathering of Old Men, by Ernest J. Gaines, begins with the child narrator, "Snookum", who spreads the word that there has been a shooting on a Louisiana plantation. The person killed is a white, Cajun farmer, named Beau Boutan. He has been killed in the yard of an old, black worker, named "Mathu". Because of the ongoing conflict between Cajuns and blacks in South Louisiana, the fear of the black people is immediately felt. In South Louisiana, there is much bitterness between Cajuns, which are described as a white, French, traditionally poor, uneducated and an ethnic minority themselves, with a history of violence towards blacks, and the black people. There are fifteen different characters in this story, and all have an important role. Because there are so many suspects for the shooting, this really puts a lot of pressure on a character named "Mapes". Mapes, is a white sheriff who traditionally deals with the black people by the use of intimidation and force, finds himself in a 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. Throughout the course of the novel, Mapes is described as outgoing, stubborn, and is ambitious.
Quote: "Shoot them back," Mapes Said. Shoot them like you shot me (203).
Paraphrase: If they shoot at you, shoot back at them just like you shot at me (178).
Example: Mapes is getting frustrated because everyone is asking him what to do.
Quote: "I"ll handle it my way" Mapes said (119).
Paraphrase: I don't care what you think right now, I"ll get it done eventually the way that I want to do it (89).
Example: Gil and others begin to get restless at Mapes because they do not think he knows what he is doing.
Quote: "The quiet before the storm," Mapes said to Lou.