A Gathering of Old Men

by Ernest J. Gaines

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What is the significance of the ending in A Gathering of Old Men?

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At the finale of The Gathering of Old Men, Mathu agrees to ride back home with the other black men in Clatoo's truck instead of taking a ride from Candy. Throughout the novel, Mathu and the other men stand up for one another and oppose the plantation owner and the officers in the town, unifying against white supremacy in the novel.

While the ride with Candy would certainly be more comfortable, Mathu chooses instead to ride with the many other men cramped in the back of a truck. He does this as a symbolic act of solidarity, saying that, instead of siding with the white people in power and benefiting himself personally, he chooses to accept the suffering that comes with unifying with the other men of color.

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It's significant that Mathu chooses to ride back in Clatoo's truck with the other black men instead of accepting Candy's offer of a lift back to the quarters. This is an expression of Mathu's growing racial consciousness and sense of solidarity with his fellow black man. In their lengthy stand-off with the official—and unofficial—forces of white power, Mathu and the other men have at long last learned to stand tall, no longer feeling that they must bow down before the white man at every opportunity.

The men have taken a brave stand and emerged from their struggle stronger and wiser than before. They've developed an unbreakable sense of camaraderie that will bind them close together for the rest of their lives. As the men can now stand on their own two feet, they have no further need of the kind of well-meaning assistance offered by sympathetic white folk such as Candy. Hence the great significance in Mathu's turning down her offer of a lift.

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