Shades of Gray

by Carolyn Reeder

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Student Question

Why doesn't Meg want to go to Mr. Jenkins in Shades of Gray?

Expert Answers

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Meg doesn’t want to go to Mr. Jenkins because he got into a fight with her father.

Will brings two rabbits from the line, and Aunt Ella asks Meg to take some meat to Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins.  She asks if Will can take it instead.

Mr. Jenkins … challenged Pa to … fight him. Pa didn’t want to fight an old man, so he said he had no quarrel with him and turned around to leave. And then Mr. Jenkins called him a coward.” (Ch. 5)

She is upset because she feels like her father was not treated right by Mr. Jenkins, and she does not want to give him anything because of it.  Will asks Meg if that was the end of it, and she says Mr. Jenkins hasn’t spoken to any of them since.  The meat might be a peace offering.  Will believes it is the right thing to do.

Uncle Jed explains that he does not want to go to war just because someone believes differently than he does.

Will has trouble understanding why Jed does not see fighting as an issue of Union versus Confederate.  Jed does not see a clear enemy.

“I’ve faced enemies, too— the enemies of us all. Hunger. Illness. Grief. And hatred. But I’ve never faced my own countrymen as enemies. A man isn’t my enemy just ’cause he believes different than I do.” (Ch. 7)

Jed does say he would go to war against another country if it meant staying free, and Will explains that the Confederacy has formed a country.  Jed tells Will that they formed this country so that they could keep slaves.  This confuses Will, who says that not everyone saw things that way.  He accuses Jed of not loving Virginia enough to fight for it, and Jed points to the land and says that is the Virginia he loves, and he loves it enough to not want to bloody it.  After the conversation, Will is more confused than ever.

Will finds a Yankee officer’s button, and it has a C on it for Calvary. 

Will has a button collection from buttons found on the battlefield.  His brother Charlie had taught him about the buttons, and he knew that enlisted men only had the number of their regiment on the button.  The symbol of “a woman warrior with her foot resting on a vanquished foe” is the Virginia State Seal and represents the Virgina state militia.  The VM is from a Yankee belt plate.

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