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Jungian philosophy defines archetype as a "collectively inherited unconscious idea or thought pattern" that is almost always present in individual psyches. In Ernest J Gaines's A Gathering of Old Men, the archetype is that of a "universal" urge among the titular old "black" men of standing up and being counted as it were, in an attempt to undo decades of racial oppression by the "whites" in Bayonne, Louisiana.
Gaines has admitted his characters are informed and shaped by the people that he met during his formative years, growing up in the very land he writes about (for the most part). The old men in A Gathering are a study of the idea of characters within their society.
Two of the allusions that inform the landscape of this novel are pecans/pecan trees, and the cemetery in Bayonne, Louisiana, which speak to not just the geographical construct of the novel, but also how they are viewed by the old men shuffling towards righting a wrong, that of unitedly taking a stand against the vilification that they have borne silently for years and are no longer willing to accept.
The pecans-in-a-cemetery motif juxtaposes two cultural aspects of these "characters in their society" - the comfort they find in food that grows on trees in the cemeteries that are the final resting place of the departed whom these old men want to vindicate and honor.
For more, please refer to the study guide.
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