Island: The Complete Stories

by Alistair MacLeod
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What is the “Golden Gift of Grey” in the story and who gives Jesse this gift?  What does it mean to Jesse? 

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"The Golden Gift of Grey" is a tongue-in-cheek title that references an insight given to the main character that seems to hold the glittering promise of gold but is really the beginning of the character's moral degradation. When Jesse and his family move from a small mountain camp in rural...

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"The Golden Gift of Grey" is a tongue-in-cheek title that references an insight given to the main character that seems to hold the glittering promise of gold but is really the beginning of the character's moral degradation. When Jesse and his family move from a small mountain camp in rural Kentucky so his father can leave coal mining in favor of a safer and more profitable life, Jesse and his siblings are introduced to a world of moral grey areas.

Jesse goes to a local pool hall despite knowing that gambling is strictly against the conservative moral values his parents instilled in him. After winning at the pool hall, Jesse is overwhelmed by guilt and confesses the whole thing to his parents. He hopes that by presenting his winnings to them, he can earn their forgiveness. When his parents insist that he returns the money, Jesse's friend Everett intervenes and offers him an alternative solution.

Everett convinces Jesse to keep the money and lie to his parents. In doing so, Jesse accepts the "gift of grey" and abandons his parents' traditional morality for one that is more convoluted and self-serving.

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