A Gathering of Old Men

by Ernest J. Gaines

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How is symbolism displayed in A Gathering of Old Men?

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Symbolism is displayed in the story through the action of the novel. One of the most memorable scenes is when the old men pass the plantation graveyard for black people on their way to see Candy and Mathu. The graves represent the guilt that the men feel, thus encouraging them all to confess to the murder.

The guns are another symbol in the book. Candy tells the men to bring guns, but she expects them to have empty shells in the guns, showing she doesn't see them as strong men able to do much. The white men see the guns as symbolic of the old men's inablity to function anymore. As the old men fill their pockets with full shells during the day, however, the guns come to symbolize the manhood of the old men. They are getting their respect back as men by loading their guns with full shells. By the end, the old, black men are calling the shots, feeling they are in a position of control for once in their lives.

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