Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Jim Crow South in Welty's "A Worn Path" and Gaines' "The Sky is Gray"

In the previous post, I wrote about Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" and Ernest Gaines' "The Sky is Gray." As mentioned, Gaines said that he had to read Welty's story first in order to write his own. For this post I will continue the exploration of these two texts in conjunction with one another. Specifically, I will examine the journeys that Old Phoenix and James both take to town. Throughout their excursions, both characters experience hardships and encounter racism on their way to a doctor's office and dentist's office respectively. 

As Phoenix makes her way through the countryside, she struggles to get to the doctor in Natchez. When the frozen path begins to go up a hill, she speaks to herself, saying, "Seem like there is chains about my feet time I get this far" (276). Welty's story oozes with symbolism, and Phoenix's statement here registers as symbolic. Phoenix can be seen as a symbol of African American struggle from slavery to the 1930s. Upon reaching the hill, she notices that she will be tired, as she always is at this point, and she specifically mentions that her feet feel like they are harnessed in "chains." The struggle against Jim Crow for African Americans in a racist society can be seen in Phoenix's comment. Immediately after she crests the mountain, Phoenix looks behind her to see where she came from the she begins her descent on the other side. However, her descent is not smooth either. When she reaches the bottom of the hill, her dress becomes ensnared in thorns. Trying to pull the dress free, it only become caught in other places. Phoenix tells the culprits of her captivity, "Thorns, you're doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir" (277). Whereas racism and oppression are implied in Gaines' story, they are symbolically portrayed in Welty's through Phoenix's reference to chains, her entanglement in thorns that will not let her go, and in her "trial" to get past the log over the creek. 

After resting, and being confronted with the apparition of a boy bringing her cake, Phoenix travels through fields of "dead trees" in a "withered cotton field" and "past cabins silver from weather" (278, 280). See Kevin Moberly's "Toward the North Star: Eudora Welty's 'A Worn Path' and the Slave Narrative Tradition" for a discussion of previous criticism of Welty's story and its connection to James Olney's characteristics of slave narratives.   When Old Phoenix begins again, she comes across the white hunter, and her struggles against a society that subjugates her become real instead of just symbolic. She sees a nickel fall out of the hunter's pocket; to distract him so she can pick the nickel up, she sets the hunter's dog and a stray to fighting. The hunter leaves, and she picks up the nickel. Upon returning, the hunter, who does not know that Phoenix retrieved the nickel, levels his gun at her, asking, "Doesn't the gun scare you?" (283) Phoenix basically admits to taking the nickel, but the hunter doesn't realize it, and he lowers the gun and smiles, warning her to "take [his] advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to [her]" (283-284).  The hunter's confrontation, whether joking on not, shows the relationships between whites and blacks in the Jim Crow South. Even his warning to Phoenix displays that no matter how much she tries to climb the hill or get through the thorns that ensnare her, there will always be those that hold her back because of the color of her skin.

In "The Sky is Gray," Gaines does not overtly present Jim Crown racism. Instead, he subtly implies the segregation that exists in Bayonne. Eight-year-old James, getting on the bus, does not mention that it is segregated; instead, he simply states, "When I pass the little sign that say 'White' and 'Colored,' I start looking for a seat" (91). James only says this after the fact that whites sit in the front of the bus and blacks in the back, nothing more. Later, James and Octavia enter Bayonne and see "grass shooting right out of the sidewalk," bringing to mind that James is no longer in the quarters where he can move and go as he pleases without the ever-present fear of oppression. Upon entering Bayonne, James makes three references to segregation and racism. The first comes when the mother and son pass by a school. James sees the "white children playing in the yard" and then passes a cafe where people are eating while he is cold (93). Octavia tells him to keep his eyes forward, teaching him how to act in segregated Bayonne.  Continuing to walk, James bumps into a white man, and Octavia jerks him away. Finally, as they come upon the courthouse. James notices the flag. He comments, "This flag ain't like the one we got at school. This one here ain't got but a handful of stars. One at school got a big pile of stars-one for every state" (93). The flag, of course, is the Confederate Flag, a symbol of Southern hostility towards African Americans.

Both Gaines' and Welty's stories contain images of racism and oppression; each, however, presents segregation and struggle in different ways. Welty presents it through the use of symbols that Phoenix comes upon during her journey. Gaines implies Jim Crow segregation through the narration of an eight year old. There is more that could be said about these stories, especially when considering Phoenix and Octavia in relationship to one another as they show strength in their journeys to town. There could also be a discussion of the ways the nurses treat Phoenix and the scene in the dentist's office in "The Sky is Gray." What do you think about these two items? Make sure you leave a comment below.

There will not be any new blog posts over the next two weeks. Make sure you check back in on Tuesday January 6, 2015 because I will have a post on tips for teaching Gaines and information about the Second Annual Summer Teaching Institute at the Ernest J. Gaines Center.

Gaines, Ernest J. "The Sky is Gray." Bloodline. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1976. 83-117. Print.
Welty, Eudora. "A Worn Path." A Curtain of Green, And Other Stories. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1979. 275-289. Print.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" and Gaines' "The Sky is Gray"

Eudora Welty in 1941
Glancing through Ernest Gaines' works, one notices that most of his novels and short stories begin with a road. A character is moving down a hot, dusty road to somewhere, or a character is waiting on a road for something. Catherine Carmier begins with Brother pulling up to the store before he goes down the road to pick up Jackson. Of Love and Dust starts off with Jim Kelly sitting on the gallery watching a car drive fast down the quarters kicking up dust. A Gathering of Old Men opens with Snookum hearing Candy sitting in the road calling out for Aunt Glo. Virginia, at the beginning of In My Father's House, looks out of her house to see who is knocking on her door. Miss Jane starts her story by talking about the "Sesch Army" and their appearance at the plantation after their long walk on the road. I bring these items up, because one short story that Gaines has cited as an influence on him is Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path." In this post, I will speak briefly about the relationships between Welty's story and Gaines' "The Sky is Gray."

Just as Gaines has spoken of Hemingway, Turgenev, Faulkner, and others as influences, he has mentioned that Welty inspired him as well. Speaking with Elsa Saeta and Izora Skinner in 1991, they asked Gaines in he modeled his short story on Welty "A Worn Path." Gaines replied, "Not modeled on it, but I don't know that I would have been able to write 'Sky' had I not read Eudora Welty's 'A Worn Path'" (245). The main aspect that Gaines drew from Welty's story of Old Phoenix's trek to town to get medicine for her sick grandson is the "the journey." To Gaines, "[t]he journey is the thing: the journey of the old woman going to the doctor, going to town to get medicine for the kid. This is what I was going for--the journey. What does the journey mean besides going to town and coming back?" (245) Both stories contain a journey, and both, as I allude to earlier, start on a road.

Old Phoenix's journey in "A Worn Path" takes place in December on "a bright frozen day in the early morning" out in the country where "an old Negro woman with her hair tied in a red rag, [could be seen] coming along a path through the pinewoods" (275). James does not walk at the beginning of "The Sky is Gray," but he can be seen waiting on the side of the road in his "country" town waiting for the bus to take him and his mother to Bayonne. James says, "Go'n be coming in a few minutes. Coming round that bend down there full speed" (83). Later, we learn that the journey that James and Octavia take to Bayonne occurs on a day much like Old Phoenix's, cold and dreary. While the settings are similar and the time frame of both stories (one day) are similar, there are a couple of major stylistic differences between them.

For one, a third person narrator tells Old Phoenix's story, providing a separate voice to describe her journey to Natchez. We receive James' account of his journey to the dentist in Bayonne from his point of view. Allowing the reader to hear James' account of the journey from his point of view allows for a deeper understanding of his thoughts and actions. For example, it provides insight into his thoughts about manhood, how he feels about his mother, and his reactions to his first encounters in Bayonne. On the other hand, relating Old Phoenix's trip to Natchez from the third person point of view does not give the same insight. Readers do not see the the inner thoughts of her head unless she speaks. This creates a distance between the reader and Old Phoenix where as with James the reader feels more connected with James because he relays his thoughts and desires directly through his narration.

Stay tuned for the next post where I will discuss some other aspects of these stories.

Gaines, Ernest J. "The Sky is Gray." Bloodline. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1976. 83-117. Print.
Saeta, Elsa and Izora Skinner. "Interview with Ernest Gaines." Conversations with Ernest Gaines. Ed. John Lowe. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1995. 241-252. Print.
Welty, Eudora. "A Worn Path." A Curtain of Green, And Other Stories. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1979. 275-289. Print.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ernest Hemingway's "Soldier's Home"

Hemingway in World War I
During the Second Annual Ernest J. Gaines Lecture a couple of weeks ago, Dr. John Lowe spoke broadly about Catherine Carmier, its genesis, plot, and early drafts. (The lecture will be available online soon.) Among the myriad of interesting moments from Dr. Lowe's lecture, one comment stuck out to me. When discussing the scene in Catherine Carmier where Aunt Charlotte talks with Jackson to explain to him why she sent him to California and about his lack of faith after his education, Dr. Lowe brought up Ernest Hemingway's "Soldier's Home" from In Our Time. I have written about Hemingway's influence on Gaines and about the role of religion in Gaines' works. Today, I want to examine "Soldier's Home" and the scene mentioned above together. Both contain a maternal figure confronting their charge with questions about religion and faith after traumatic events.

In "Soldier's Home," Harold Krebs, recently returning to his Midwestern town after World War I, tries to come to grips with the things that he experienced. What troubles him throughout the story is the fact that the community he left behind maintains specific ideas about what happened during the war. In order to try and appease those who did not experience the carnage of war, Krebs, like other veterans, lies and exaggerates to placate his listeners. However, "his lies were not sensational at the pool room" where he retreated to because most had already "heard detailed accounts of German women found chained to machine-guns in the Argonne forest" (137). Any story that did not have details like this were not interesting to the men. Telling all of the lies caused Krebs "nausea" because, if truth be told, "he had been badly, sickeningly frightened all the time" (137).

Even though Jackson did not encounter the horrors of war when he left the quarters for California, he still felt "sickeningly frightened." Even though Jackson does not mention racial incidents in California, it can be implied that some occurred. For instance, when speaking with Madame Bayonne, he tells her, "But when we went up there [California], we found it all a pile of lies. There was not truth in any of it. . . . They don't come dressed in white sheets with rope. But there's no truth" (81). Even before he went to California, Jackson was scared. Responding to Aunt Charlotte's speech about him succeeding for the community and about his loss of faith in the church, Jackson informs her, "You sent me there. . . I didn't want to go. I cried, I cried to keep from going" (100). Krebs enlisted to join the war effort, so any fear that he may have had before his deployment is not mentioned. However, Jackson did not have a say in whether or not he would leave for California. The prospect scared him, and he made sure to let his aunt know that it did. Jackson knew that the community wanted him to go. If he failed, Aunt Charlotte says, "that's all for us" (98). Krebs does not have this responsibility hanging over his head, but his father does want him to get a job instead of lying around all day. His father doesn't even care what that job may be, as long as Krebs works.  

These are just a couple of the similarities and differences between Krebs and Jackson. The main similarity that I want to discuss deals with Krebs' and Jackson's dismissal of faith. At the end of "Soldier's Home," Krebs' mother speaks with him about love and faith. Over the breakfast table, Krebs' mother asks, "Don't you love your mother, dear boy?" (143). Coldly, Krebs replies, "No. . . I don't love anybody," as his mother begins to weep (143). After comforting his mother and telling her that he does not really mean that he doesn't lover her, Krebs agrees to kneel and pray with his mother; however, he tells her, "I can't [pray]" (144). Krebs cannot pray because of the trauma he endured during the war. Instead, his mother prays for him.

The two incidents between Krebs and his mother are similar to the relationship between Aunt Charlotte and Jackson. After Aunt Charlotte slaps Jackson when he tells her that he doesn't "believe in that bourgeois farce" called church, his aunt asks him to kneel with her and pray (100). Jackson responds in the same manner that Krebs does; he says, "I can't" (100). Jackson's reasons for not being able to kneel and pray differ from Krebs'. While it is implied Krebs does not have the power to kneel because he has lost faith after seeing the destruction of war, Jackson simply refuses because he does not want to show weakness. Aunt Charlotte ultimately kneels and prays for Jackson as he stands there quietly. All the while, Jackson thinks about the calendar in the room. The picture on the calendar is of Christ kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. For Jackson, "both the idea and the portrait were disgusting" (99). For Aunt Charlotte, however, the image gave her strength, thinking about "the Master on his knees" (102). Later, when Jackson finally tells Aunt Charlotte that he plans to leave and return to California, he hurts her in the same way that Krebs does when he says, "I don't love anybody." In this scene, Gaines implies part of the conversation between Jackson and Aunt Charlotte in much the same way that Hemingway does in his work: "But he had not said half of what he wanted to say to her when she staggered against the door as if someone had hit her with his fist" (162). Aunt Charlotte maintains her composure and tries to walk into the house, but she falls again. Before getting into the house, she screams, "Get away from me, Jackson" (163).

Both Krebs and Jackson hurt the maternal figures in their lives by denying religion and essentially telling those who love them that they do not reciprocate that same affection. Krebs' reasons, of course, differ from Jackson's. In Europe, Krebs experienced the horrors of war, and those horrors caused him to feel disillusionment and isolation from the community and his family upon his return. Jackson feels isolation from his family and community as well, but for a different reason. Aunt Charlotte sent Jackson away so he could have the opportunity to return to the quarters to teach and uplift those that remained. His education, though, alienated him from the community. After receiving an education, he could no longer accept the beliefs that Aunt Charlotte held or suffer the oppression that he left behind.

What other similarities do you see in these two works? Are there any other stories in Hemingway's In Our Time or elsewhere that you see reflected in Gaines' writings? What are they?

Gaines, Ernest J. Catherine Carmier. New York: Vintage Books, 1993. Print.
Hemingway, Ernest. The First Forty-Nine Stories. London: Jonathan Cape, 1946. 136-144. Print.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Clerk and Social Distinctions on Cane River in Saxon's "Children of Strangers"

Yucca (Melrose) Plantation
Last post, I discussed Lyle Saxon's Children of Strangers (1937) and some of the themes that it has in common with Gaines and other texts. Here, I would like to continue that discussion briefly by bringing up some other aspects of the novel that are worth further investigation.

During Christmas, Mr. Randolph, after "the negroes" had all left the commissary, would take "five of the old mulatto men" with him into the back office and pour six glasses (122). The men would sit around, drink, and talk. Each new about the social distinctions in the area, so that is why they performed this yearly ritual in the privacy of the commissary's office. While Mr. Guy and the mulattoes drink in the back room, the clerk (who I believe is never named) begins to think about the relationships on Cane River. It is not clear where the clerk, often referred to as a hill-man, comes from. Since people refer to him as a hill-man, I assume he comes from North Louisiana, East Texas, or possibly Arkansas. The clerk becomes irritated with Mr. Randolph because the man chose to drink with "a damned race of bastards" instead of with him, a man of Mr. Randolph's own race (122). The clerk recalls that, where he is from, no one would tolerate a white man drinking with mulattoes or "negroes." Along with despising the idea that Mr. Randolph would drink with the "bastards," the clerk begins to think about the fact that the Randolphs, instead of treating him as an equal, treat him "just as a servant, like the niggers, in spite of the fact that he ate at the table with the white people" (122-123). Here the distinction between the clerk and the Randolphs is made clear. Instead of saying, "he ate at the table with them," the narrator specifies that the Randolphs are "white" and the clerk is not. Here, the term "white" constitutes a class distinction because the clerk does not own land and is below the white landowners like the Randolphs.

Immediately after this observation, the clerk starts to think about the distinctions on Cane River.
He couldn't understand these distinctions. There were really four classes on Cane River: Mr. Guy and his kind, and then his, the clerk's kind--he knew that Miss Adelaide considered him 'trash'--then there were the mulattoes who looked down upon the black people, and last, at the bottom of the heap, were the negroes themselves. . . And the negroes didn't seem to give a single damn! (123)
In Saxon's novel, the clerk occupies the position that the Cajuns occupy in Gaines' work. He is "white;" however, he is not white. Since he does not own land, and is considered "trash" by some, he cannot reside on the same level as the Randolphs or the Harrises. Instead, he must maintain a space that does not allow him much movement. What makes the clerk's predicament different from the Cajuns' in Gaines' Catherine Carmier is the fact that Mr. Randolph will drink with the mulattoes and he understands the distinctions, unlike the whites and their relationship with Raoul. In Carmier, Bud Grover provided the Cajuns with more land to farm because, as Madame Bayonne tells Jackson, "White is still white. . . [a]nd white still sticks with white" (73). On the other side, Cajuns still reside below aristocratic white landowners. In A Gathering of Old Men, Gil confronts Candy at Marshall Plantation, telling her, "You never liked any of us. Looking at us as if we're a breed below you. But we're not, Candy. We're all made of the same bone, the same blood, the same skin. Your folks had a break, mine didn't, that's all" (122). On this scene, Sister Mary Ellen Doyle asserts, "Gil is moved to turn on Candy and assert Cajun identity vis-à-vis upper-class whites," and in doing so. Gil realizes the equality he has with blacks and others (186). The clerk never challenges Mr. Randolph outright; instead, he only thinks about the inequalities that he experiences and lets them stew within him.

As I am writing these posts, I realize that there is more and more that could be said about Saxon's novel. I may do one more post about it next time because the clerk's actions in regards to the mulatto Nita and Henry Jack's relationship with Mr. Randolph's brother Paul are both worth examining. Until then, remember to leave a comment or question or below.    

Doyle, Mary Ellen. Voices from the Quarters: The Fiction of Ernest J. Gaines. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2002. Print.
Gaines, Ernest J. Catherine Carmier. New York: Vintage Books, 1993. Print.
Gaines, Ernest J. A Gathering of Old Men. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. Print.
Saxon, Lyle. Children of Strangers. New Orleans: Robert L. Crager & Co., 1948. Print.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lyle Saxon's "Children of Strangers"

Saxon at Yucca (Melrose) Plantation

In 1937, Lyle Saxon published Children of Strangers. The novel, which takes place on Cane River near Natchitoches, LA, chronicles the life of Famie, a Creole, who fathers a son with a white criminal, marries her Creole cousin, and eventually losses her status with the Creole community after she falls in love with a African American named Henry Jack. What makes this novel pertinent, apart from the fact that Saxon sets it during the early part of the twentieth century in a central Louisiana community, is the way that Saxon, almost thirty years before Gaines, explores the intricate relationships between gens de couleur libres (Creoles), white landowners like the Randolphs, African Americans like Henry Jack, Dicey, and Mug, and hill-men like the clerk in Guy Randolph's commissary store. 

Unlike Raul Carmier and his father, Famie's ancestor Grandpére Augustin owned the land. Augustin's grandfather was a Frenchman, Vidal, and his grandmother was a mulatto. Vidal brought Augustin's grandmother from New Orleans, where they met at a quadroon ball, and settled on Cane River, which was then part of the Red River. Even though they could not legally marry, the couple had four children and Vidal left all of the land to them after he passed away. Born in 1768, Augustin inherited a portion of the land from his father. He owned it till his death just before the Civil War, and as a land owner, he even owned more than one hundred slaves. After the Civil War, "the mulatto slave-owners," as Guy Randolph says, "suffered just as the white slave-owners did" (228). They ended up selling some of the land, and Mr. Randolph's grandfather purchased Yucca Plantation, "right in the middle of the mulatto holdings" (228). Eventually, the isolated creole community that flourished on Cane River became integrated when "strange families" moved in. Guy Randolph tells the complete story in Chapter XXI to Harry Smith. 

When he begins to discuss why the creole community has started to disown Famie, Mr. Randolph informs Harry that it is because she has sold her possessions to the whites and eventually plans to sell the land as well so she can support her son who has gone to stay in Chicago. Even though the community does not disparage her for having an illegitimate child with a white man because it makes the race lighter, they disagree with her selling the possessions and land to Mr. Randolph because they believe he is robbing her, and them. Eventually, they will disown her completely because of her relationship with Henry Jack, an African American sharecropper. In these respects, Famie resides in the liminal space between the white and black worlds in the same way that Raoul and his family does in Catherine Carmier. Even though her relationship with the white man is not disparaged because it produces a lighter skinned offspring, the community would have considered her an outcast if she had a baby with a black man.

Famie cannot navigate between the white world, the mulatto world, and the black world. She does not have anywhere to go, but she wants her son Joel to succeed. In order to prepare him for success, Famie watches the way that Mr. and Mrs. Randolph's white children behave. She examines them closely so that her son can imitate them. In some ways, this is like Roxy in Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894). When Harry asks Mr. Randolph how Famie is losing caste, Mr. Randolph begins his reply by saying,
Just this. She was obsessed about this white child of hers. I used to see her here, watching my children. She noticed what they said, what they ate, what they wore . . . and then her child did the same thing. Of course she spoiled him to death. He was a handsome little fellow, but mean. And the meaner he was to her, the better she was to him . . . Well, now he's gone. (229) 
Famie hopes that Joel will become like the whites so that he can essentially "pass." Joel tells his mother about a white man  from New Orleans who visited Yucca Plantation. The man told Joel, "You could pass for white anywhere" (217). Upon hearing this, "Famie felt exultation" (217). The thought that Joel could pass, and Mrs. Randolph makes the same comment about Famie early in the novel, causes Famie to experience joy because she sees a better life for her son, one where he does not have to worry about people looking down on him because of his race. On his last trip home, Joel informs Famie that he is planning to move to California and that he wants to cut off all relationships with the people he knew in Chicago and with his mother. He says, "I've left Chicago for good and all, and I'm going to California where I don't know anybody at all. I've crossed the line in Chicago, but it's dangerous there" (281). Because of the danger and the fact that "[t]oo many people know that [he's] not all white," Joel feels it is best to leave (281). He does not even tell Famie where he will live in California.

In many ways, the passing aspect of Saxon's novel corresponds to the passing novels by African American authors that appeared around the turn of the century and during the Harlem Renaissance. Works such as James Weldon Johsnon's Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Charles Chesnutt's Paul Marchand, F.M.C. (set in New Orleans and kind of a reverse passing novel), Jessie Fauset's Plum Bun, and Nella Larsen's Passing are examples. As well, Saxon's novel can be seen in relation to Antebellum texts like Lydia Maria Child's "The Quadroons" and "Slavery's Pleasant Homes" or even Victor Séjour's "Le Mulâtre." Next post, I will explore more aspects of Children of Strangers and how it relates to Gaines' Catherine Carmier.  

Saxon, Lyle. Children of Strangers. New Orleans: Robert L. Crager & Co., 1948. Print. 

Louisiana Authors and Writings Poster (1957)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Mask and Procter Lewis

Earlier, I wrote about the role that Grant Wiggins plays in relation to the whites that he interacts with. Grant consciously decides whether or not he will conform to the role of the subservient African American that whites such as Henri Pichot and Sheriff Guidry expect him to be. Today, I want to explore this same interaction; however, this time I want to look at how Procter in "Three Men" decides to put on the mask in order to possibly get a more lenient sentence or perhaps bonded out of jail for killing Bayou during a fight over a woman named Clara. Like A Lesson before Dying, "Three Men" deploys the first person point of view, in this case, Procter's.

At the beginning of the story, Procter enters the jail to turn himself in. Upon entering, Procter sees two policemen sitting at a desk and talking. Initially, the officers look at Procter, "but," he says, "when they saw I was just a nigger they went back to talking like I wasn't even there" (121). Just as Henri Pichot makes Grant wait to see him, the two men, even though they notice Procter, make him stand there waiting before they even acknowledge him in any way. Trudier Harris points out that Procter's initial referencing of himself as a "nigger" is important. Essentially, through this reference, Procter "labels himself through the eyes of the whites," letting  them determine his identity (43). While Grant has a more fleshed out identity, he acts the same way as Procter does in order to gain a chance to see Jefferson.

Like Grant, Procter knows when to add words like "sir" and "mister" to his speech. However, just as Grant thinks about whether or not he will add these formalities, Procter toys with the notion as well, explicitly leaving "sir" off of statements.  When asked about whether or not Paul, the other officer, had ever brought Procter into jail, he simply responds with, "Yes sir, once I think" (123). Here, Procter uses "sir" as a sign of "respect," but behind his outward comment on going to jail once, he thinks to himself, "I had been there two or three times, but I wasn't go'n say it if he didn't. I had been in a couple of other jails two or three times, too, but I wasn't go'n say anything about them either" (123).

Immediately following this thought, Paul asks Procter if he is good with his fist. Procter replies, "I protect myself" (123). This response causes T.J. to perk up, prodding Procter with, "You protect yourself, what?" (123). This causes Procter to repeat the statement, adding "sir" to the end. After another question, Procter does the same thing by leaving off "sir," and T.J. prods him again. Harris notes that this exchange shows Procter as trickster because "[h]e is mask and wearer, the Uncle Tom and the self-aware trickster, for the trickster registers his true responses to the situation as well as his resistance to the very role he has elected to play out with the white men" (44). Procter maintains his mask, making sure the two officers see him as subservient and falling in line. However, as his previous thoughts show, Procter "registers his true responses." At one point, when T.J. tells Procter that the he would "run every damned one of you off in that river out there," Procter just stands there quietly and thinks to himself, "I was quiet, looking at him. But i made sure I didn't show in my face what I was thinking. I could've been killed for what I was thinking then" (125). We don't know what Procter was thinking, but we do know, through his comments, that it was a thought of resistance. Even with this thought, Procter's face remains the same, showing no evidence of the thoughts that lurk behind his expression.

Procter, like Grant and Booker Wright who I wrote about before, wears the mask. He knows how to respond, and how to resist, albeit in minor ways. What are some other examples, either in Gaines' works, where these interactions appear? Place them in the comments below so we can discuss them.

Gaines, Ernest J. "Three Men." Bloodline. New York: W.W. and Norton, 1976. 121-155. Print.
Harris, Trudier. The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2009. Print.