What is the conflict in A Gathering of Old Men?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The conflict in A Gathering of Old Men is basically the want to know and the process to find out who killed Beau Bouton. Part of the conflict is also the wonder of whether there will be justice for Beau, and whether the person who committed the crime will pay for it. 

A secondary conflict that is mainly a theme throughout the novel is the need for social and racial unity in the South. The novel deals entirely with this deep separation, and the conflict actually stems from the ongoing struggles for equality that simply do not change in Louisiana. As Gil Boutan says regarding this topic, as he tries to find justice for his son, 

He looked around at all of them. "Won't it ever stop? I do all I can to stop it. Every day of my life, I do all I can to stop it. Won't it ever stop?" (

The narrative style of A Gathering of Old Men includes the points of view of 15 different characters, all speaking in first person, and the point of view of the third person omniscient objective that describes the characters from afar. This being said, the want for justice for Beau reaches a variety of levels of candor depending who is the character that is speaking about what is going on.

The actual "gathering" is the defining moment that incites the action in the novel, as the old men get together in the plantation to seek for justice. 

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