With the setting of this short story in the 1940s, World War II is in progress and the children and their mother are alone. In the third section, James, the narrator of the story, remarks that his mother goes to bed early now, but
Fore Daddy went in the Army, she used to stay up late. All of us sitting out on the gallery or round the fire. But now, look like soon's she finish eating she go to bed.
Having her husband away with no income, James's mother must care for and provide for the children as best she can by working in the fields; however, food is scare as is money. As a result of the hardships she must endure as she tries to raise a family by herself, Octavia, the mother has become hardened and withdrawn. Indeed, the sky is "gray" for the family in the absence of the father within the Jim Crow era in which they live.