Ernest J. Gaines American Literature Analysis
Gaines is a raconteur of the agrarian South, specifically of the black experience in rural Louisiana during the three decades following World War II. His chief setting, former slave quarters located near the town of Bayonne, closely mirrors the actual surroundings of Gaines’s boyhood: the quarters on River Lake Plantation and the town of New Roads. This world, remote for most readers, becomes in Gaines’s novels a literary microcosm, inhabited principally by blacks, Creoles, and Cajuns, all treated with a simple honesty and direct style that are the hallmarks of his fiction.
Prevalent themes in Gaines’s fiction often originate in his own experience. His male characters search for an identity at a time when change was hard-won and self-esteem required the courage to reject a demeaning place in a world in which wealth, prestige, and power belonged exclusively to white people. In those turbulent years of the mid-twentieth century, escape from poverty and racial servility often involved flight to the North or West, but at great emotional cost and with a deep sense of alienation and loss. In contrast to the stance of more militant African Americans who, writing during the 1960’s, were advocating confrontation and even violence, Gaines has defined courage in the young black male as the power to endure with dignity the injustices of a racist society (“The Sky Is Gray” and A Lesson Before Dying).
Gaines’s work reveals that the...
(The entire section is 3119 words.)
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