*Everything* about the colors in “The Sky is Gray” by Ernest Gaines is significant. Not just for the obvious reason, of course, to guide and allow the reader to imagine how things look and feel, but he also used colors for symbolism and irony. The story itself is based upon the life of a black child living outside Bayonne, Louisiana during the Second World War. In one part of the story, in the morning, after James struggled with trying to get out of the freezing cold and the terrible weather in a city full of places where he and his mother were not permitted to enter because of their color: diners, stores. They were treated poorly by so many cold-hearted people. But then, a white woman invites them into her store and suggests to give them something to eat. Additionally, the author often used the color red to describe blood. We all know what color blood is. Describing it, naming it, defining it makes it more real and adds even more significance to the underlying theme and the importance of color. He vividly describes so many things, such as the men leaving the battle scene. When you think about it, this boy’s life should have been clearly black or white. There should have been no gray areas.
In addition to author’s purpose to guide the reader’s imagination, the title of the story is equally important and “on purpose”, so to say. A gray sky in my world could mean a gloomy day according to the weather or it could just be a gloomy day emotionally, physically, mentally. James struggles throughout the entire story, with moments of hope throughout. At first, the story begins with an overall barren mood although allowing hints of hope for the future as a gray sky itself will allow the sun to peek through from time to time. The setting of the story also contributes to the overall mood. James and the author makes reference more than once to the terrible weather and coldness, in conjunction with what is happening in his life as well. You can clearly see the connection. James’ mother even wears a black coat and a black hat. Another example of the significance of the use (or non use) of color and its connection with the title are the many scenes described without color. For example: the road that he travels on, the sky, their clothing.
Ernest Gaines does an incredible job using colors as great tools for symbolism and irony in the story where everything about a boy’s life is “gray”, when it should have been one way or the other, undoubtedly.