Ernest J. Gaines is a master of the dialect of his home region of southern Louisiana, and he uses this skill to good advantage in “The Sky Is Gray.” His use of the point of view and language of an eight-year-old boy, who narrates the story in his own words, is also an important stylistic device. The conversation between the preacher and the student that occurs in the dentist’s office, for example, is presented without comment on the boy’s part, because James lacks the intellectual capacity to analyze or even fully understand the significance of all that he sees and experiences. Abstractions such as the question of God’s existence are beyond his intellectual range, so he simply repeats the dialogue as he heard it. Thus, the narrative is straightforward and simple; Gaines’s themes and meanings are implicit rather than explicit, shown rather than told.
The effective integration of language, theme, and narrative voice makes this story an excellent example of the literary realism for which Gaines is justly respected by critics and reviewers.