Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Ceremonies in Dark Old Men portrays the disintegration of a family after the death of the mother. Parker is a decent man. His stories of a happy marriage with Doris are believable. His memories of his vaudeville successes are perhaps less believable but still plausible. The family’s story seems to be an old one, of a strong mother who keeps the family together when the father feels defeated by a racist society. After Doris’s death, Adele believes that it is her inherited role to take care of the men. They let her do it. Parker sees his shop as a haven from the streets outside, where he knows he will meet with failure. In the comfortable ceremonies of their checkers games, Jenkins and he enjoy the solace of friendship in a difficult world.

For Blue Haven, life on the streets has been an ordeal that he has faced the only way he knows how, even to the extent of killing a man over a woman. Whatever sort of villain Blue Haven may appear to be to the world beyond his streets, he lives by his lights. He has a son by the woman who is his companion, and with this woman he has a sex life that at least temporarily obscures for both of them the misery of their cramped existence. When she begs Blue to marry her, he breaks out in a sweat, realizing what threats are entailed in a life of responsibility and entanglement. He nevertheless agrees: “But I have been kind! I have kissed babies for the simple reason they were babies! I’m going to get married to...

(The entire section is 523 words.)