The Sky Is Gray Essay

972 words - 4 pages

James, the narrator in Ernest Gaines' "The Sky is Gray" is an eight-year-old African American male who is still a child but being the oldest male in the household he faces more responsibility than a normal young boy would. His father is deployed to fight in World War II, so his mother; Octavia is forced to take care of the household. She in turn must teach him how to be a gentleman, which he becomes at the end of the story. Influenced by the women in his life, James, the protagonist in Ernest Gaines' short story "The Sky is Gray" makes a transition from boyhood to manhood.

A gentleman, as defined by Merriam Webster's Collegiate dictionary is a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior or a man of any social class or condition often used in a courteous reference. A gentleman possesses sincerity, nobility, strength, security and assurance. Each male makes a transition from boyhood to manhood, a time of change from childhood to adulthood. Octavia is the guide for James in his journey to maturation, into being a gentleman. The narrator states, "I look at my mama and I know what she's thinking. I been with Mama so much, just me and her. I know what she's thinking all the time". (p. 384) He realizes early he has a responsibility, the reader realizes this when the narrator states: "I'm the oldest and she say I'm the man".(p 384) Usually the oldest child has the most responsibility because they act as a role model to the younger siblings and if anything should happen to the parents, they must take care of everything.

Octavia does not worry when she leaves James at the house with the younger children because she knows James is going to look after them and their aunt. This is a good example of what a man's duty is, to take care of the household. Octavia worries about the pigs and if there will be enough lumber to warm the house, but she does not worry when James is around because she knows she can rely on him and looks at him as the man of the house.

James is learning to be stronger. He wants to hug his mother and comfort her, and his teeth hurt him so bad he wants to cry. Octavia tells him that crying displays weakness. He knows that his teeth need to be seen by a dentist but he thinks about how they do not have that much money, and that is a sacrifice he will make. James is thinking about the family, and knows that money can go towards something else.

As stated before, Octavia looks to James as the man of the house, therefore when she tells James to kill the...

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