Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Race and Rights
Gaines’s story is meant as more than an entertainment; it is meant as a critique of the racial injustice he...

(The entire section is 484 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Point of View
‘‘The Sky is Gray’’ is told entirely from the point of view of the eight-year old narrator, James....

(The entire section is 526 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Why did James’s mother think it was important for him to kill the songbirds? Look up the phrase ‘‘rite of passage.’’ Does James’s...

(The entire section is 76 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk is one of the masterworks of 20th century literature, a collection of essays as powerful...

(The entire section is 250 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Babb, Valerie Melissa. Ernest Gaines. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Beavers, Herman. Wrestling Angels into Song: The Fictions of Ernest J. Gaines and James Alan McPherson. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995.

Carmean, Karen. Ernest J. Gaines: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Davis, Thadious M. “Ernest J. Gaines.” In African American Writers: Profiles of Their Lives and Works, edited by Valerie Smith, Lea Baechler, and A. Walton Litz. New York: Macmillan, 1991.

Doyle, Mary Ellen. Voices from the Quarters: The Fiction of Ernest J. Gaines. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Gaudet, Marcia, and Carl Wooton. Porch Talk with Ernest Gaines: Conversations on the Writer’s Craft. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.

Lowe, John, ed. Conversations with Ernest Gaines. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1996.

Simpson, Anne K. A Gathering of Gaines: The Man and the Writer. Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1991.

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Babb, Valerie Melissa. Ernest Gaines, Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Estes, David C., editor.Critical...

(The entire section is 163 words.)