The Sky is Gray

652 Words3 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 aft... ... middle of paper ... ...r but Octavia tells him "You not a bum," she says. "You a man."(p.404) This is significant because it shows he is not seen as a young boy by his mother anymore, he is now seen as a man. We see the influence and change in James by all of the life lessons his mother instills in him, she tells him he needs to not cry, to be strong, and be able to stand alone symbolizes that he must be independent, he must also put others before himself and do things he may not like to do but must do as a necessity to live, such as killing the cardinal birds for supper. Helena also shows James that everything in life you must work for, that is why she tells him to take out the trash cans. In Conclusion, 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.
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