Ernest J. Gaines Short Fiction Analysis
Strongly influenced by the folkways of rural Louisiana, Ernest J. Gaines’s narratives all reflect a cultural heritage enriched by a strong oral tradition. Although his fiction’s main focus is on the African American community, the author’s work also reflects the cultural diversity of his native parish, Pointe Coupee, by Creoles, Cajuns, and Anglo-American entrepreneurs, overseers, and law officials. Among Gaines’s acknowledged literary mentors are the nineteenth century Russian masters, for their treatment of peasantry; Ernest Hemingway, for his understatement and “grace under pressure” theme; and William Faulkner, for his mastery of locale and the oral narrative.
Gaines, although popular, is a very serious and methodical writer. He works very hard to fashion a distinct voice richly imbued with its unique traditions. He also spins compelling stories, which are collected in the single volume Bloodline, first published in 1968. Bloodline contains five long stories, all of which deal with a place and a people Gaines expresses so fully and so vividly that they are recognized as his own exclusive fictional property: the southern black communities living on a stretch of low-lying cotton and sugarcane country between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers, west and northwest of Baton Rouge. Setting is a central force in Gaines’s work, and his fiction often focuses on this distinctive Louisiana region....
(The entire section is 3043 words.)
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