Analysis

These two chapters present the climax and the ensuing aftermath of the crisis. Charlie suddenly has reappeared to confess to the crime. The assumption that everyone felt about Mathu being the murderer is wrong. Ironically, the man who has long been considered the weakest of them all, Charlie, killed Beau. In this one day, Charlie transformed himself from a weak servile creature into a strong man. First he fought back against Beau's abuses. Second he decided not to flee and returned to take confess to what he had done. Finally, when Luke Will finally arrives, Charlie insists that he is not scared and starts to fire against the would-be lyncher. Charlie's transformation testifies most strongly to his redefinition of black masculinity and manhood. On a textual level, Charlie's alteration after the act of murder should be compared to that of Richard Wright's Bigger Thomas from the classic novel, Native Son. In fact, the name that Charlie asks everyone to call him in this chapter, Mr. Biggs, suggests his thematic kinship with Bigger Thomas

The other old black men finally are also able to bring their masculinity into action here. The Sheriff, Candy, and Lou all have believed that the old men came to the plantation simply to confess for Mathu. With the arrival of Luke Will, however, it becomes clear that the blacks are equally interested in fighting. The blacks have been secretly filling their pockets with live shells all day long. The ability to load and fire their guns surprises Candy, the Sheriff, and Lou. The whites assumed all day that the black men were toting empty shotguns around with them as further symbols of their limited manhood. Here the men show that although old, they can still load their weapons and fire at will. Their decision to fight against the whites shows that they have fully transformed themselves into active brave creatures. With the narration of Coot, the former soldier, the great pleasure that these men feel in fighting clearly comes across.

While the men assert their manhood, as the battle starts out the narrative tone also shifts slightly to the absurd. Billy Washington, for example, cannot manage his gun and shoots up much of the roof of Mathu's house. His inability to properly fire his gun is comic. The comic tone appears ironic since serious issues of racial discrimination, miscarried justice, and economic hardships have pervaded the novel. Still, the comic touch allows for a trenchant commentary upon the situation at hand. Gaines evokes the concept of the absurd in part because the scene is absurd. The old men fighting for revenge are in their seventies and eighties. The local whites who have come to lynch them are basically the lowest of the low. The absurd narrative tone suggests just how silly the situation is. The old men have been waiting all day for the lynching and here at last it is. But times have changed, and the ways of the old South are mostly over. The blacks' and whites' attempts to replay history in a more modern age can only exist in a slightly ridiculous realm.