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I would suggest that the antagonist in the story is the society that has constructed so difficult a reality for James and his mother. Gaines develops this on a couple of fronts, both of them being related to one another. The first would be the economic condition that makes James' mother have to choose between realities determined by money. Issues such as the going to the dentist, walking or taking the bus, and even eating are shown to be the state of being in which she and her son live. This is a force that creates fundamental challenge for the family, and can be seen as an antagonistic reality. Another similar element of antagonism would be the racial condition that is linked the challenges of the economic one. The issue of race and racial identity in the American South of the 1930s is of particular challenge to all people of color at the time. The different points of view expressed in the doctor's office about how the address such a challenging adversary helps to illuminate how the issue of race represents an antagonist in the story. It is here where I tend to see the antagonists in the story as the racial and economic climate of the time period that defines reality for James, his mother, as well as all people of color.
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