The sky is gray ernest gaines
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The Sky is Gray Ernest Gaines. Ernest James Gaines . Born January 15, 1933 By the age of 9 was earning 50 cents a day digging potatoes. Raised by his crippled aunt. first 6 years of schooling were in plantation church. Google Images. Had 9 brothers and 2 sisters

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The Sky is Gray Ernest Gaines

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The Sky is Gray Ernest Gaines

Ernest James Gaines

  • Born January 15, 1933

  • By the age of 9 was earning 50 cents a day digging potatoes.

  • Raised by his crippled aunt.

  • first 6 years of schooling were in plantation church

Google Images

  • Had 9 brothers and 2 sisters

  • 5th generation of sharecropper slave in his family

  • Could only go to school for 5 or 6 months

  • 1957-Moves to San Francisco and earns degree in literature .

  • 1996- spent a full semester as a visiting professor at the University of Rennes in France

  • Wrote his first novel at 17 while babysitting. Catherine Carmier.

  • 1856-The turtles (first short story)

  • A Lesson Before Dying- National Book Critics Circle Award

  • 1963- The Sky is Gray (later added to his bloodline stories)


Google images


  • Southern Plantation in Louisiana

  • Rural town right outside of Bayonne (Gaines's mythical city)

  • Gray landscape and pervasive cold are central to the atmosphere of the story.

  • In the time period of WWII

  • action occurs in one day

Google Images

Main Characters

  • James- 8 year old narrator who observes events he cannot comprehend, but must accept.

  • Has a toothache

  • Life is not that of a normal child

  • Octavia- (James’s mother)

  • Trying to prepare her son for the harsh and cruel life of a black man in this time period.

    represents a typical black woman in this time trying to do what is best for the family.

Major Events

  • The decision to go to town for James’s decaying tooth

  • After being turned away from the dentist office, the long walk to the “back of town” through the freezing cold where black people were only allowed to eat.

  • The invitation to come inside an old woman’s store to get out of the cold and keep warm.

  • The fact Octavia won’t accept free food and the old woman’s act of kindness.

  • The walk back to the dentist after leaving the woman’s store.

  • Octavia tells her son “You not a bum, you a man.”

  • Parallel to an event from Gaines childhood


  • Strength and Endurance

    The dignity of both women is shown.

    “The author, while acknowledging the tragedy of segregation, transcends oversimplification of racial issues to find hope in the strong bonds of pride and empathy in the brief encounter between the two women.” - Fiero


  • Sons searching for fathers

  • Gaines own father was away fighting during WWII.

  • This theme is included is often used in Gaines work.

Works Cited

  • "Ernest J. Gaines." Wikipedia , 29 April 2011. Web. 12 May 2011. <>.

  • McDonald, Walter . ""You not a Bum, You a Man": Ernest J. Gaines." Jstor. St. Louis University , 1975. Web. 19 May 2011.

  • Fiero, John W., and Marjorie J. Podolsky. "The Sky Is Gray." Magill’s Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition (2006): 1. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. Web. 22 May 2011.

  • Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 10: Ernest J. Gaines." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. URL: 22 May 2011

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