Session Title

Literature

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor

Leslie Bickford, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Description

In The Sky is Gray, Ernest Gaines chooses to narrate from the perspective of eight-year-old James, who has little understanding of either the world he lives in or the challenges he faces because of his race. Since he is unable to profoundly grasp what he sees and hears, he often shares his love for his mother and his dreams of nice things to give to her instead of offering opinions on his experiences. Through his eyes, ears, and thoughts, we watch James learn more about his mother’s seemingly strange, prideful actions, and we observe as he develops into a young man willing to take action for her sake. To reduce his story to merely a cautionary tale of the effects of segregation would be to ignore the intricacies of his relationships with his mother, her pride, and his surrounding world, and it would further weaken the impact of James’ growth into manhood through his sensory experiences. This paper will approach the purpose of Gaines’ narrative style by focusing on James’ senses and the way he interprets what he sees, hears, and remembers. This paper also intends to draw connections between what he sees and hears his mother doing in the beginning of the story and the actions he takes to care for her in the end in an attempt to show how James has, through his sensory experiences, grown into the man his mother wants him to be.

Previously Presented/Performed?

South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, November 2019; Sixth Annual Showcase of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (SOURCE), Winthrop University, April 2020

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Apr 24th, 12:00 AM

Seen, yet Unknown: The Growth of a Boy in The Sky is Gray

In The Sky is Gray, Ernest Gaines chooses to narrate from the perspective of eight-year-old James, who has little understanding of either the world he lives in or the challenges he faces because of his race. Since he is unable to profoundly grasp what he sees and hears, he often shares his love for his mother and his dreams of nice things to give to her instead of offering opinions on his experiences. Through his eyes, ears, and thoughts, we watch James learn more about his mother’s seemingly strange, prideful actions, and we observe as he develops into a young man willing to take action for her sake. To reduce his story to merely a cautionary tale of the effects of segregation would be to ignore the intricacies of his relationships with his mother, her pride, and his surrounding world, and it would further weaken the impact of James’ growth into manhood through his sensory experiences. This paper will approach the purpose of Gaines’ narrative style by focusing on James’ senses and the way he interprets what he sees, hears, and remembers. This paper also intends to draw connections between what he sees and hears his mother doing in the beginning of the story and the actions he takes to care for her in the end in an attempt to show how James has, through his sensory experiences, grown into the man his mother wants him to be.

 

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