November 16, 2008
Major American Writers
The Sky is Gray - Literary Criticism
At some point in the life of every individual, that person will become a victim of circumstance. Forces beyond his control, shape certain aspects of life, forever changing his perspective and expectations. In Ernest Gaines’, The Sky is Gray”, a young boy’s life is contemplated and manipulated by the pervasive sense of racism, the impressive power of African American pride and values, and society’s reaction to both.
For James, life exists as a daily grind, carefully watching the vicious cycle of challenges continually faced by his mother as she tries to single-handedly to keep her family going. Each small success begets another obstacle. The formation of James’ character and personal values are but a reaction to these challenges. “It’s a long old road, and far’s you can see, you don’t see nothing but gravel” (Gaines 2416). This quote by the young black boy references the road that he and his mother are walking along to reach the bus station. While he may in fact be describing the actual road, the author implies the continual plight faced by James and his family.
The entire story depicts the scenes, laden with discrimination, as James and his mother catch a bus to go to a neighboring town to see a dentist. The racism encountered on this short journey reminds the young character that the color of his skin continually directs the treatment as a human being that he will receive from society. He is initially reminded of his perceived inferiority as he and he mother board the bus to town. Walking past many empty seats in the “white” section of the bus only to arrive at one open seat in the colored section, the boy offers the seat to his mother and stands for the ride. While on the bus, James acknowledges the fact that the sky is gray, and the river is gray, symbolizing the mundanity that is his life. Once in town, James must walk past...