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A Gathering Of Old Men Analysis Essay

With some connections to the idea of struggle and survival, we can use The Inheritance of Exile by Susan Muaddi Darraj and A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines to show that a home may not always be a safe and secure place. Both stories represent the importance of a rooted home with the exceptions to the difficulties within that home. We will see the struggles behind the immigrant Palestinian women now living in America as they share their personal stories with their daughters, of living in refugee camps. As for the old men gathered at a Louisiana sugarcane plantation known as Marshalls.

They await Fix Boutan’s arrival for the murder of his son Beau Boutan. They will share their personal and collective memory of the pain and suffering that them and their people endured. Their experiences of home will result in the question for survival and what it actually takes to be considered one. Even though both stories have a different representation for home and the struggles endured in their homes. Both of them share the same result, in that the people that are made to listen will never fully understand that a home isn’t always a safe place with a field of care.

The old men at Marshall and immigrant Palestinian mother Layla from Ramallah share the idea of struggle but differ in their attempts to try and connect with their people about their difficulties. Layla has a difficult time connecting with her daughter Hanan. Hanan is a unique character in the fact that she divides herself from the standard Arabic culture because of her embarrassment that her mother isn’t a typical American. From a young age she was upset about her name and even despised her mother for having an accent and inability to pick up on American culture.

Even after settling in Philadelphia and escaping the war back home. An example of Hanan’s lack of understanding for Layla’s culture can be represented from Hanan’s callous attitude towards her neighbor as she fails to gesture any form of respect. Her neighbor’s reaction triggers Layla’s thought about the war back home. How the last time she felt this nervous was when she was running away from the soldiers not knowing why the world was collapsing all of a sudden. Thus realizing how “Back home, I would go after Hanan and slap her face… his was the only country where disrespect was enforced” (103).

This results in the struggle in the differences between homes because Layla is unable to discipline her daughter in America as opposed to the culture of the way things are done back home in Jerusalem. Layla’s personal struggle to imbue some of her own culture into Hanan differs from Tucker’s personal memory of his brother Silas beating the machine. His ability to demonstrate his pain, suffering and regrets results in him asking for his peoples forgiveness as a way of passing judgment over him for his inability to help his brother.

Unlike Hanan who is someone who will never understand the struggle that it took to live in Layla’s world before Philadelphia. Rufe, one of the old men gathered at Marshall compensates for everyone else’s understanding that “We had all done the same thing sometime or another; we had all seen our brother, sister, mama, daddy insulted once and didn’t do a thing about it” (97). Even though both stories represent different types of difficulty. Baker’s idea of collective memory and shared knowledge illustrates well, the difference between why Hanan is unable to understand respect.

While Rufe and the rest of the old men gathered at Marshall, didn’t have to speak in order to understand what the rest of the old men were thinking. Both stories demonstrate the notion of survival and the struggle of hard work and fear that that most people wouldn’t understand until they’ve witnessed it. Immigrant Palestinian mother Huda is a survivor of the wars back home in Haifa. She lived in refugee camps where motors would kill the neighbors that she went to school with. Later attending their funeral.

Transitioning from a difficult life where you were constantly seeing people die and reacting to loud noises made it difficult for Huda to get adjusted to her new home in America. She had developed a classical conditioning of reacting unrestrainedly when she first heard the bell in her new school in Philadelphia. Huda’s bottled up narration towards her daughter Reema of her past experience is defined by the statement, ‘When you grow up in the camps and see what I used to see” (191).

This demonstrates the struggle and frustration she had towards her teacher and classmates as they laughed and took things casually when the alarm went off. They did not understand what it was like to have friends you see everyday, only to see them being dragged out of rubble after a missile ends their life. Because of her skills as a survivor, she made it her decision to live while the others can die for their inability to survive. Huda’s emotions reflect the same emotions derived from the old men at Marshalls after listening to Johnny Paul’s epiphany of how Mapes does not see what the old men see.

After numerous attempts of trying to understand what the old men were talking about “seeing” and “not seeing”, Mapes is forced to listen to their reason for retaliation. To make Mapes feel even more baffled, Johnny Paul lets him know that, “No, you don’t. You had to be here to don’t see it now. You just can come down here every now and then. You had to live here seventy-seven years to don’t see it now. No sheriff, you don’t see. You don’t even know what I don’t see” (89).

Similar to how Huda felt about her new classmates and teacher during the alarm, Mapes was unable to understand what the old men were referring to. The old men exemplified the word survival and the struggles that came along with it. What Mapes was looking for, was something that only the old men understood because they didn’t see just the fields and the change in setting. It was the pain and suffering that their people endured. It was the time of endless hours of work for the white man, with the fear of being beaten or killed.

There was no way that Mapes, Reema or any of the people at Huda’s new school could have understood. Even though both stories did not meet the standards of a safe and ideal home, the characters still fought and worked hard for their survival within their homes. Creswell argues that, “Home is an exemplary kind of place where people feel a sense of attachment and rootedness. Home, more than anywhere else, is seen as a center of meaning and a field of care” (39). Despite the war, the Palestinians living in Philadelphia still felt that their real homes where in Jerusalem.

We saw an example of their rootedness towards respect and appreciation when Layla wanted to smack her daughter for disrespecting her neighbor, but was unwilling because of their new home. We can also see another example of Layla’s appreciation for what they have now because she lectures Hanan on how “she and her sisters had to walk to the next village, and knock on the doors of the convent and ask for food” (109) whenever Hanan didn’t finish hers. Of course Hanan accepts the fact that she will never understand the struggle.

Her father Michael is another example of why people like Layla have this feeling of home and rootedness. He tries to say something to Hanan as an alibi for Layla’s reasoning, but is unable to let the words form because he himself is an American born Arabic. His first glimpse at the way Layla lived in the Refugee camps on their honeymoon is an indication for why he works hard and wants their children to “know their culture” (102). Despite the history between the old men and the pain they endured working the plantations.

They weren’t going to allow Fix or anyone else get rid of their attachment and sense of worth because they were the reason the fields still existed. Their blood, sweat and marks are left on that field proving their prominence as survivors. Despite the struggles endured within their homes the old men and mothers now have a better appreciation for where they came from and what they look to achieve. Even though the women carried their traditions and felt bound to their homes in Jerusalem it does not reflect Tuan and Creswell’s ideas of home as a center of field and care.

They struggled and endeavored for their status as survivors. In hopes for their daughters to never experience their suffrage. We also saw through the gathering of the old men at Marshalls that they fought for a better future for them and their people even if it meant putting their own lives at risk. They knew the word struggle and only they were able to see the hardships, the work, the time, the everyday life of surviving that Mapes could never understand.

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