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An Essay on The Sky is Gray by Ernest Gaines

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Ernest Gaines’ The Sky is Gray towered the heights of fame in the years 1930 to 1940 that it had been accepted by the contemporary masses as one by which introduces the African-American scene in prose (Bloom, 1994).  This inspirational story of an eight year old boy which served as an example symbolizing the primitive era of the Blacks’ dark ages harmoniously rhyme with the works of other famous Black Fiction authors which tremendously paved the view of educational artistic writing.  Although Gaines did not reach the level by which other conventional authors were able to achieve, Sky is Gray depicts the reality that had been transcribing during his immediate Civil Rights days and is coherently enjoyed by modern day readers globally (McMillen, 1997).

The author of the book, born on January 15, 1933 at Oscar Louisiana, world-renowned author Ernest Gaines experienced the typical hardships which are commonly cited on trendy black American books.  Growing up in Valejo, California in pursuance with his educational acquisition, he served the army for two years before he has commenced himself in the arena of short story writing (Rubin, 1985).  His basic influences which had been assumed to be taken from Russian writers such as Tolstoy, Turgenev and Gogol are representations of evidence why his conviction with regards to political and social fields are but sent with a higher level of force and formality.

Authors possess a series of distinguishing factors in the form, style and ways they have in portraying stories in their pieces.  Given with such fact, it is an advantage for the contemporary society since that they will be given the chance to choose on what kind of book or article they are to ponder on to in a certain point of time (McKay & Gates, 2004).  For the Renaissance period, it is quite evident that most works which had been consistently hailed and read are works of Blacks, narrating stories of their lives.

He is much concerned with complex relationship status of urban and rural living such that his works had often been scrutinized by critics and had been questioned on its level of sagacity (Rubin, 1985).  However, such intimidations never hindered him from continuing what he believed to be just and right in literary works.   His fictions which reflected and refracted the events of the realm of history, tradition, folklore and folkways of his experiences as well as with the people surrounding his abode emerged him in exploring the rather fragile pasture of prose which are the portrayals and illustrations of sex and love in a time of rigid taboos (Bloom, 1994).  Meanwhile, “The Sky is Gray” is his ultimate grandeur which never fails to soften the deep senses of the reading masses.


            James, the narrator in the story may seem to be one of those typical people walking along the street.  But behind that face which he possessed is a brave, strong man ready to face the waves of life which tends to shake the galleon of his pride and dignity (Gaines, 1995).  For whatever reason Gaines may have wanted to convey in his book, what only remains evident is that he had the objective in establishing the reality of racial discrimination, as well as using James, living in the lower level of the society, but had been able to surpass the challenges of his time (Gaines, 1995).

A highly inspirational story fit for all levels of the society. Central to psychological egoism is the argument that self-interest is always the motive behind all the acts of human beings, including acts which are categorized as deeds of altruism. Ethical egoism, on the other hand, claims that persons ought to do what is essential to their self-interest (Baudelaire, 1995; Currie, 1985).  To be an egoist would be prudent for several reasons both for the perfectly just and perfectly unjust man.

Living in Fear: Tracing American History as sought by James

Like that of the story of James, in The Sky is Gray, although it does not barely imply such of exactly the same kind, may also be incorporated with that of what the “Invisible Man” in Ralph Elliot’s novel had been portrayed.  American History often stresses the point of slavery and racial discrimination. For that certain fact, it has made black Americans hungry for freedom that their way of being heard was through the use of pen by literature, or worse, in the realm of a bloody war.  Plenty of truth bares the inequity behind the perceptions of asymmetrical treatment.

As for the invisible man, the story of his life, though he had felt, experienced and had been a witness of the biases in color, portrayed a perfect representation of the blacks stern personality and braveness, living with their belief that all men are created equal.  The mentioned outward appearance of treatment must be expunged and totally be erased in the rationality of mankind, or rather have those antagonists be called white poisonous serpents eaten with selfish pride again (Breidlid, 1996).  Given with such dilemma of the Invisible Man, it may be taken to assumption that racial discrimination had been rampant in that certain era.  Captivating stories had been written to inspire readers instead of lingering the unfortunate fate of those who failed to survive in the war.

An example for this, is a brave black American woman in the name of Fannie Lou Hamer, a woman armed with hope to eradicate a form of juxtapose deprivation against what she believed to be elements of privilege in her own very limited environment was painstakingly given to her and of her family, an implication which states that Black Americans do not allow themselves to be treated like slaves by others (Lee, 2000).

Along with her bravery as indulged by other authors were The Scottsboro Boys, Joe Louis, Richard Wright and Sterling Brown (Mullane, 1993).  When the war has commenced, children and women had to leave their homes for safety and let their fathers or any man in their family risk their lives to battle.  Guns and explosives were seen everywhere.  The flag was raised symbolizing that they are ready to face the doom of death.    Children were ranting and women were hearing voices.  They became afraid of coming out.


            The behavior of James’ mother, considerably that which is quite autocratic and harsh on him, depicts the casual personality of a typical woman in their immediate era, thus it could be taken to assumption that her harshness is inflicted due to the frustrations she had in the war and the kind of treatment that ‘whites’ were giving their family.  As for the woman who fed them and gave James a slight compensation or a mutual form of service, it portrays the picture of how they actually treat those of James’ kind and how James’ kind are trying to accept such form of treatment.  Nevertheless, the inspirational story which aims to unfold the reality of civil war makes James an unsung hero, overcoming the horrors of the society’s equilibrium.


Bloom, H. (1994). Ernest J. Gaines. In Contemporary Black American Fiction Writers (pp. 30-32): New York Chelsea House Publishers.

Breidlid, A. (1996). American Culture: Texts on Civilization (1st ed.). New York: Routledge.

Gaines, E. J. (1995). The Sky Is Gray New York: Creative Co (Sd).

Lee, C. (2000). For Freedom’s Sake: THE LIFE OF FANNIE LOU HAMER (Women in American History). Illinois: University of Illinois Press

McKay, N. Y., & Gates, H. L. (2004). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (2 Pap/Com ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

McMillen, N. R. (1997). Remaking Dixie: The Impact of World War II On the American South. Jackson: Miss. University Press of Mississippi.

Mullane, D. (1993). Crossing the Danger Water: Three Hundred Years of African-American Writing (1st Anchor Books Ed ed.). Toronto: Anchor.

Rubin, L. D. (1985). Ernest Gaines. In The History of Southern Literature (pp. 515): Baton Rouge Louisiana State University Press.

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