Sciences sociales et Ill/mailles
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Uuil'ersité de
Abidjall-Côte d'Ivoire
Î\\1anv commenlators have noted Ihat the issucs of
different strategies ofsurvival which result when «the
chan~c. Ilhelhcr individual. social. or cconomic. arc
new world impinges on the old.» and «the once-rigid
ckarly in the forefront ofCiaincs' llclÎon. Michel fabre
poles» separating races tend to bend.
observes that despite the increasin~ threat to the old
Like ail of Oaines . works, Catherine Carmier
order \\l'hich nH1dernity poscs. (iaines dcpicls a
is set in the fictitious Bayonne area in Southern
"lIllÎlersc 1\\lhieh l remains a stahlc one, ,)1 Similarly.
Louisiana. ln this nove!. Gaines provides the reader with
('harle~ Il, i{l)\\lcll l'icws(iainesasall authorreeording
a cont] ict hetween generations. played hy a mosaic of
"a slatu.: \\lorld ticrce!y resistant 10 ch~ulge,»: 11I)\\\\ever.
eharacters. W0111en and men. who fit an era orchange
John <>' Hncn IS of the opinion that '<lInlike Faulkner.
made ofdoubts and conflicts. The change is hrought
1\\ 110 \\\\ as enalllored of the past beeallsc its strict social
on Grover plantation by technology ,md education. On
order alleasl nHcred man stahililY. (iaines in his tiction
the one hand. with theirtmctors. the Cajlms have virtuaUy
labors tn escape the imlllobile past and to view change
put the black farmers out of business. The young are
as nccessary in sustaining lilè.»' Clearly. criticaJ opinions
leaving their birthplace to find work in the cities. On the
ditkr signific,mtly al~.19t Gaines' trealment ofthis theme.
olher h,md. education appears equally disruptive. Aunt
This paper disnlsses change in ('ul!lrrille ('url/lier,
Charlotte has paid for Jackson 's education in the hope
j'mesl (,aines' lirst novc! puhlished in 19M, Some of
that he will rctUl1l to teach in their community and make
lhc Ljucslions il sceks [(l ans\\\\cr arc' hOI\\ does (J,lines
h.:r proud. BUI education is a conseiousness-changing
ullllèrsland change'? Is he for or ag,ti nst change')
process. It has taken Jackson from his initial acceptance
orthe constrai nts of racial prejud ice into a state ofmind
NOllJ1g thc reeurring thcmcs III Ernesl .1. (jaines
imposed hy frustrations. in which resistance to the
liclÎon. 11<1\\1 Fuller rcmarked that (iaines is conccrned
existing scheme ofthings. his only clear direction. is
\\\\ itb
cOl11plicatcd by his love for Aunt Charlotte. It is clear.
the contliet Ill' cms. The ne\\l \\\\orld of mobility aÎid
however, that traditions and institutions, religion. share-
expanded possibililies impinges on the old world of land
cropping. folkways. unwritten laws handed down trom
Jovealld solid. acœpled social stratillcation, The realities
generation to generation. no longer bind Jackson to his
,,1' thc pi<lIJtalll\\l1 cuilur<: gradualh SIIIT<:nd<:r tn the
people. He adds to his Aunt's anguish and to his
III Illdusiriai [lace 'Incl lecllllOll)gl The ol1ce-
rlgld pole- \\\\ 11Ich separated \\\\ hllcs t'min cajun. and calun
eOll1munity's disappointment hy pursuing Catherine. the
tl'11111 111l1latto. and 1l1lliatto tl'(Jm blac". have be<:11 hent
Creole girl. He challenges prevailing conditions and
<'Ul ,,1' ,hap<: '
causes the people to examine their values. and thereby
The collision ofems Fuller mentions is one ofthe
acts as an agent ofchange. Gaines structures his novel
cawlys..:s ordmngc, The discussion is done through
around a pattern ofdoubleness and ambivalence, The
the examination ofin-between attitudes and races. and
doubleness and ambivalence are revealed through the
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characters' attitudes and choices, Gaines' own position
Ambivalence, revealed in the chamcter of educated
in presenting them, and in the narrative itself Catherine
Madame Bayonne, so knowledgeable in custorns and
Carmier introduces the themes thatGaines uses in aIl
traditionai laws, is a pattern that infonns the whoJe nove!.
ofhis Liction: the opposition between past and present,
It can be fOllI1d in almost aIl the values and characters
old and young, and oral and written. It suggests the
that it presents: Jackson wants to cast the past asidc.
passing ofan era and the coming of a new one with the
but he can't bring lùmselfto do it: hc rcjccts the church,
people stubbomly resisting the wind of change.
but ironically it is that institution. through Reverend
At twenty-two, Jackson Bradley, after
Armstrong's lecture that to love, not «to have. to
graduating [rom college in San Francisco, returns to
possess,» is the Christian way, that convinces Aunt
the Grave plantation, his bilthplace and childhood home.
Charlotte to let Jackson follow his own path: Catherine
He brings back a new perspective and set of values,
vaciIlates between Jackson and Raoul; Raoul, the last
acquired through his life (<up North» and the literacy
male Creole on the plantation, is rejected by whites.
that makes him reject his people's tradition. It is fitting
Along with tIùs, his ul1\\villingness to ally himselfwith
that nobody else understands Jackson cxcept Madame
blacks is a dead end journey. The characters'
Bayonne, his former schoolteacher, the other literate
ambi valence reveals Gaines' own refusaI to providc an
person in the black community. Madame Bayonne, a
easy answer to the characters' dilemmas. Gaines
perspicacious old woman, is not unlike Madame
understands how inadequate such an answcr mlLlld he'.
Toussaint in the story «A Long Day in November.,>5
The old ways are neither whoIly laudable nor who! Iy
Nobody willingly associates with her. The children
without merit. The future is both open and dangerous.
accuse her ofbeing a witch, but the intelligence she has
Most ofthese characters, particularly Jackson.
ofeverything going on cornes from her deep knowledge
Catherine, and Raoul, fmd themselves in the position of
ofhuman nature and ofher community, and, Gaines
Edward Said's critic. They stand between two pol es
suggests, from her literacy. As Keith Byerman points
that claim their whole beings. One is the culture to
out, Madame Bayonne «combines... the wisdom of the
which they are filiatively bound. Indeecl, for Said, this
folk and the critical perception ofthe larger soeiety.»6
would be a clear case of filiation. Black culture Îs
She has achieved that critical perception through
Madame Bayonne's and Jackson 's filiation whereas
education, which she and Jackson are the only ones
Creole culture is Catherine and Raoul"s. But ifv,e'
among the blacks to share. Madame Bayonne 's position
postulate, as the lm'ger society does. that Creole equals
resonates with the words of a character in Richard
black, then, the concept of filiation becomes hard to
Wright 's novel, The Outsider:
define. And ifone remembers that Creole is bath black
Negroes are going to be gifted with a double vision, for,
and white, a definition appears even more complicated.
being Negroes, they are going to be both inside and
The question here is: can one have several filiations?
outside of our culture at the same time... they will
The second pole that daims the characters is what Said
become psychological men [and women), cellters of
calls «a mcthod or a system acquired affiliatively.n ' b)
knowledge, so to speak 7
social lies and/or education. such as Madame
Bayonne's and Jackson's education or Jackson 's
Because she is equally both inside and outside
relationship witb Catherine. This system cuts acruss
ofblack culture, Madame Bayonne can relate to the
fl1iative difference, and has the potential to include
people and to Jackson, and tell him the history of the
Jackson and Catherine.
community and explain the reasons why things are the
way they are. At bottom, Wright and Gaines refer to
the ambivalent nature ofblack existence in America,
which W.E.B. Dubois termed double-consciousness.
1 Michel, Fabre, <d3aYtllll1C or the Yoknap,Hll\\Vpha or I:::rnl:Sl (jaillL:s.))
Dubois' ideahas become central in the description of
Cal/a/oo, 1 (1978). Special Gaines ls:o;ue, p. 113.
Charles, H. Rowell. (The Quarlcn: Ernest Ga1l1CS and the Sense or
the cultural ambivalence ofthe African-American. The
tenn doubleness is also fitting in that il describes the
The SOIl/hern Review, 21 (1985). p_ 735
\\ John, O'Bnen. lnlenïell's WlIiJ Black Wruers. Ne\\\\ Ynrl-;
! 1\\':IÎ~hl
notion of «in-betweenness» or borderland and also
1973. p. 79
points to the way in which Madame Bayonne, a
~ Hoyt Fuller. «Books ~o[ed»). ,Negro DIgest. 16 (19671. Il .:;; 1
". Emese J. (iainI.'5. «/\\ Long Day III No"clllberll 111 H/uod/IIU.;', Nc\\\\
charactcr in the nove!, is eaught in the structure whereby
York. 'l'Ile Dial Press. pp
she tends to become a narrator when sh,e is given the
(, Keith Byerm<lll, "Fingcring the Jagged (Jrain: Tradition and hlrtll··,!n
Recent Black Fiction. i\\lh~IlS, The University of Cieorgia Press. !lJX:;.
task ofproviding background information.
p. 69.
,. Richard Wright, The Ol/Isider. New York. Doubled"y. 1965. p 129
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the whole black community. Echoes of the
Though educationmay create a bond, as between
demonstrations and freedom rides of the civil rights
.Madame Bayonne and Jackson, Gaines shows how in
movements arc heard, but do not seem to affect the
other instances it acts as a barrier. We recall Madame
place. The fact is the people and the place have
Bayonne's peculiar position in the community.
w1dergone veIY few changes since Jackson left about a
Additionally, Gaines writes that after Jackson greets
decade before. VeIY little social growth has occurred.
Jackson, on the other hand, has grown. not just
they waited for him to make the first move. He had
been educated, not they. Thcy did not know how to meet
physically, but also intellectually. Actually, a few days
and talk to educated people. They did not know what to
on the plantation show he has outgrown his birthplace
talk about. So let him start the conversation, and if
and his culture. This fact is made clear when he visits
possible, they would follow'.
his school building and ponders: «How small was the
yard ... What had happened? Had he grown so big or
Since Jackson too is at a l~ss for words, no real
had the place actually slmmk in those ten years'7 (CC,
communication takes place, and the impression he
p.192). Maybe both, for, the place has metaphorically
conveys is that of a «stuckup,» somebody who fee1s
shrunk in pursuing its practices and customs inherited
superiorto them, because he is educated. His leaving
from the past.
the house with Madame Bayonne further drives the
One such local cllstom. reminiscent of Dubois'
people away from him. The wei come party, in some
theory of a «Talented Tenth,» is the idea that at least
degree a celebration of cultural identity, tums out to be
one oftheir youth must be educated in order to retum
a disastrous event. It marks openly the beginning ofthe
and educate the others. Thus, everybody, and
ever increasing gap between Jackson and his people.
particularly Aunt Charlotte, the old woman who brought
With Muy Louise, a childhood girlfiiend, Jackson tries
Jackson Bradley up until he left for Califomia, and who
to minimize his achievement, when obviously impressed,
was the main standard bearer of traditional culture
she admiringly looks and smi1es at him after he shows
among the blacks. expect him to come back, teach,
her the book he has been reading. The opposition
and thereby redecm them, in fultillment of a boyhood
bctween Jackson and his people is tirst the one between
vow. According1y,Aunt Charlotte tells Jackson,
the intellectual whose education has cut him off from
in ever' family, they ought to be somebody to do
his people who are more attuned to folk culture. But
something. We ain't had that somebody in this ramil)
that opposition is also the one between a tradition and
yet... 1 don't mean to preach ta you. J never had to.
any individual who takes a stance against it, or even a
'cause you always knowed right from wrong. But Ijust
critical stance in favor of il.
want you ta know... you ail they is left, Jackson. Vou ail
The Grove plantation is a place where beliefs,
us can count on. 1f you fail, that's ail for us (CC, p. 98).
dreams, values, and attitudes are grounded in the past
Jackson, then, is the torch-bearer, the hope of the
and in tradition. Gaines rcinforces the idea that the past
whoJe community. But Jackson has come for final
and tradition are important in this culture whcn he writes
goodbyes. He feds no intcrest in actions directed at
that to talk to Mack Grover, the white landowner,
group liberation. Having heard that the Cajuns suspect
Robert Carmier takes rus hat off, not because he thought
him ofbeing acivil rights activist. he retlects: «What a
he should, «but because someone in the past had told
joke. He a Freedom Rider? And what would he try to
him this was the proper thing to do when asking for a
integrate, this stupid grocery store?» (CC. pp. 174-
favon) (CC, p.9). Gaines also stresses some of the
75). Jackson does not fit the image of the Freedom
beliefs in the culture when he writes that after Robert's
Rider who engages in sit-ins to reach his goal of
disappearance, it was believed that his house was
desegregation, and in his own mind, he is not one, but
haunted and that his «ghost had been seen several times
in a sense, he is. He refuses to use the segrcgated
by several different persons» (CC, p. 14). Tradition is
sideroom in the local general store. He does not respect
also shown as static. When in the early part ofthe novel
the color line in his wooing ofCatherine. It should come
Jackson and Brother meet at the bus station, the latter
as no surprise to him that he is regarded as a threat
exclaims, «Darrmit, man, you done growed some there.
both by the Cajuns who want to maintain their
[wouldn't 'a' knowed you.» To this Jackson answers:
domination over the blacks, and by the blacks who
'<J'ou look the same,» and Brother acknowledges: «Me,
have adjusted themselves to that domination and who
1never groW» (CC. p. 18).
fear his action will further endanger them. However,
These remarks run deeper than they seem to.
Jackson's concern is to find a place where he can tit,
[he sameness and lack of growth are embJematic of
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for, as the text makes clear, he feels at home neither in
adversity and avoid the kind ofpsychological problems
the South nor in San Francisco:
Jackson experiences. Norman Harris points to a feature
He [Jackson] was feeling empty. He did not like being
found in black fiction when he writes that «the more
empty-linable ta recognize things, things unable to
immersed a character is in the folk culture the more
associate himself with things. He did not like being
likely he/she is to be able to resolve conf1icts.»s This
lInable ta recognize the graves. He did not like being
feature, which is a stress on the importance ofblack
lInable to associate with the people. He did not like
culture, has somctimes been criticized as narrowing the
being unable ta go to chllrch with his aunt, or to drink in
scope and interest of works by blacks. 1contend that
the sideroom with Brother. What then? Was it to be
instead, it appeals to a general audience's romantlc
there? No, that was not it either. If neither there nor
nostalgia for filiation, for one's past, and for the sense
here, neitherthe living nor the dead, then what? (CC, p.
ofbelonging. ln Catherine Carmier, the party signais
Jackson's open dctachment from his community, but it
also works as a means for the group members ta relate
The narrative, at this moment ofinner crisis, uses
to one another and to bring them in communion. Thus.
free indirect discourse. It is impossible to distinguish a
the people discuss their dire condition brought about
separate narrator 's voice from Jackson's in this passage.
by the Cajun invasion. and despite the bleakness of
The fundamental ambiguity and complexity of free
their predicament. there is humor in their discussion.
indirect discourse reflects on the level of fictional
This is because the strong sense that they have oftheir
technique Jackson's confusion.
culture sustains them. Similarly, Madame Bayonne,
Jackson, then, is a rootless individual confronting
more integrated in that culture than Jackson, is also more
able to resolve her psychological problems than the
meaninglessness... the awareness offinitude which is
latter who lacks any vital connection with the
anxiety... estrangement from oneselfand one's world.»J
Jaekson's feelings correspond to the emptiness and
The traditional culture's ability to snstain the
estrangement thatTillich talks about. Jack Hicks refers
characters immersed in it does not mean that Gaines
to Catherine Carmier as Gaines' «personal version
finds no faults with it. Describing the Carmier house, he
ofthe white 'existential' noveL»4 Thisexistential texture,
moreover, has precedents in African-American literary
the hOllse looked 110 different from the way he left ÎlIen
history. Richard Wright's short story «The Man Who
years ago. Regardless ofhow bright the sun was shining.
Lived Underground,» for ex ample, shows the black as
the big trees in the yard always kept the yard and the
an individual with univ.ersal existential problems.
hOllse in sell1idarkness... The Cajuns have taken over
Alienation, isolation, and crisis ofidentitycan befound
the land and some of the people have gone away. bUI
in many African-American writers' portrayal ofblack
the ones who are left are the same as they ever wcre.
people. The depiction ofblack culture with its beliets,
Just as that house and those trees were and wi \\1 always
customs and practices makes Catherine Carmier a
be (CC, pp. 30-31).
«black» noveL On the other hand, the existential texture
gives it a universal interest. These two aspects give
Here, Gaines restates the stasis of the people
Gaines' text a double-voiced accent which still echoes
and theregion, mentioned earlier, and implies that the
Dubois' coinage and my own «in-betweenness.»
characters on the plantation refüse to change. With their
In the description of Jackson's emptiness and
tmdition and values, they live in semidarkness, and those
cstrangement from bis people's culture, the «black» and
who do not wish 10 do so must leave. On the one hand.
the «universal,» aspects converge to stress the
attachment to the culture inherited from the past sustains
importance of black traditional culture. Jackson's
the people, on the other, it affects their lives in a negative
inability to eommunicate with almost anybody and to
recognize any grave in the cemetery as he once could
Jackson does not see the immersion in his culture
when he was a child are the expressions ofthe agony
as something with whieh to replace the emptiness within
ofsomebody alienated from his roots. The cause ofthe
himself. For bim, Catherine's love will give direction
alienation, ifwe deduce from the marginal position of
and mearlÎng to his life. But, as Thadious Davis remarks.
the two intellectuals in the community, Madame Bayonne
«attaining Catherine is a direct way of retrieving the
and Jackson, lies in a large measure in their education
past for hinu/' Thus, ifJackson rejects his hirthplace
that makes them critical oftheir culture. That culture
and the ways ofils people, he also accepls them. lor.
nurtures the people immersed in it and help them bear
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Catherine represents them.
Davis expresses this
former have dwelt too long on the old ways not ail of
ambivalence when he goes on to say:
which are necessarily worth preserving or perpetuating.
Catherine, with her complex ties ta Louisiana, the place
As for the latter, although they lack organic relationship
and the people, is Jackson's way of accepting the
with the land, they have moved with time. With their
nostalgia and the substance of his Aunt Charlotte's for
machines, they fare much better than the blacks and
what was a strong relationship between two individuals
produce more for the rich landowner. which is one
in the pas!. Catherine is a means of accepting, while
reason why he had rather they work the land.
ostensibly rejecting, the LOllisiana that was fonnerly
Another reason why the planter' s preference
personified by Charlotte.'
goes to the Cajuns, the most important, is that here, as
Indeed Catherine's love is for Jackson, a way of
in the stories in Bloodline, race is the final determinant
remaining attached to his traditional pas!. But this love
ofdifference. The skin color. no matter how white il is
is also for Jackson, a way ofbreaking through ail the
if a character descends from slaves, determines who
boundaries that family, region, convention, and color
gets the land,just as it determines who patronizes which
impose on him and on Catherine, his Creole girl friend.
doclor in «The Sky is Gray,» and who uses the front
Like the Cajuns, the Creoles are French
door in «Bloodline.» As Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
descendants. But they also have a trace of black
ancestry, and that places them below the Cajuns, but
race has become a trope of ultimate irreducible
above the dark-skinned blacks, on the Southem social
difference between cultures, linguistic groups, or
scale. Separation ofthe races is the rule. The store has
adherents of specitic belief systems which-more often
a separate room for the blacks in the back, and no one
than not-a Iso have fundamentally opposed economic
has ever challenged this arrangement. Colored people
interests. '
and whites alike strive to carry on the inheritance ofthe
In Catherine Carmier, race stands as the «trope of
past and resist change.
ultimate irreducible difference.» As stated above. its
The rich white landowners, represented by the drunkard
politics do not oppose the landlord's and the Cajuns'
Bud Grover, at the top of the SOllthern social scale,
economic interests. The last black to hoId out against
take the land away from the blacks and give it to the
the Cajun take-over is Raoul, Catherine's father.
Cajuns, as racial solidarity dictates. But the Cajuns
Raoul represents the Creole tradition, handed down
work the land voraciously without love. Brother speaks
from generation to generation, which Madame Bayonne
of«dcstroying sorne land» (CC, p. 6) whenhe refers
to the work they will do with their tractors, a sign ofthe
Raoul has been Della's husband only by law. Otherthan
inhuman and modem industrial world now invading the
that, ifs been the land ... Why the land? It happened
South. The landlord's alcoholism and the Cajuns' lack
long before Raoul was barn. Probably his [Raoul's]
of organic relationship with the land suggest a
greatgrandfather was the first one to fïnd out that though
deteriorating world whose hope ofmoral rejuvenation
he was as white as any white man, he still had li drop of
Negro blood in him, and because ofthat single drop of
lies in the young like Jackson who dare confront and
blood, it wOllld be impossible ta ever compete slde by
challenge its obsolete values and laws. But at the sarne
side with the white man. Sa hc went to the land-away
time, there is another side at work in Gaines' portraits
from the white man, away from the black man as weil.
ofthe blacks and the Cajuns. Gaines implies thatthe
The white llIan refused to let him compete with hilll,
and he in turn refused to lower himselfto the black man's
level (CC, p. 1(6).
1 Edward Said. The iVar/d, Ihe Texl. and Ihe Cri fic. Cambridge. Mass ..
Harvard University Press, 1983.
p. 25
The text gives ample proofthat Madame BaYOlme
2 Ernest J. Gaines. Catherine Carmier. San Francisco, North Point
is right in her assessment. RaouL the 1ast ofthe Carmier
Press, 1981, p. 67. Ali further relerences will he to this edilioll and will
males on Grover plantation, works in rus field until il lS
OCCUI parenthetically within the text preceded by Cc.
Quoled from Paul Tillich, in Chester Hedgepeth, Jr.,
pitch dark. The land constitutes his favorite conversation
Theories of Social Action in Black Lilerature. New York. Peter Lang.
subject. In spite of the white man's proclaimed
1986. p 37
Jack Hicks. «To Make These Bones Live: History and COlnmunity in
superiority, the male Carmiers, especially Raoul, are
Ernest Gaines's Fiction. Black_American Literatllre Forum, Il (1977)
extremely proud and believe no man, white or black, is
P 9.
Norman Harris. «Introduction.)}
better than a Carmier, as shown in the conflict betwcen
Cnnnecting Times: The Six/ies in Afro-American Fic/ion
Robert, Raoul's father, and a Cajun which leads to the
• Jackson. The University of Mississipi Press. 1988. p. 5.
('Thadiolls M. Davis, «Headlands and Quarters: l.ouisianaÎIl
disappearance of the former. Their contempt for dark-
Calherine Cormier.» Cal/a/aa. 7 (1984). p. 8.
skinned people is al50 amply documented. <James
) Ibid., p. 9.
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writes they have little «use for dark-skin people,» and
him as it does the blacks, who have aecepted the
indeed, Raoulhires workers ofhis own eolor at harvest
Creoles' demareation.
time. He also rejects his wife not because she has been
In everybody's eyes, Jackson, then, crosses a
unfaithful ta him, but because she has gone with a black
fOl'bidden line when he pm'sues Catherine Carmier the
man. Lillian, the Carmier daughter who has been
way he does. It is no wonder his family and hers are
braught up by Raoul 's relatives in New Orleans, voices
against the match. Jackson's action is another trope lo
the same prejudice: «l'm not black, Cathy. 1hate black.
counter the Creole~'. Raoul's attitude is a trope of
1hate black worse than the whites hate it» (CC, p. 48).
difference. Jackson's is a trope of sameness.
In short. the Creoles think they are unique, and they
Consciously or not. Jackson signifies on the Creole \\
must assert and preserve their lmiqueness.
position. Moreover, his refusaI ta give Catherine up.
This thought has a basis in Louisiana history. In
like his refusaI ta confèJrm ta the raIe that Alint Charlotte
colonial and ante-bellum Louisiana, Creoles. whom
and his community have created for him, shows both
Thadious Davis calls «gens de couleur,» had privileges
his refusaI ta accommodate himselfto the established
and opportunities that neither «other part-blacks, [nor
rule and his desire ta disrupt that mIe.
even Creoles] outside the state»2 were accorded. Some
Raoul 's refusaI ta recognize that the uniqueness
exclusive1y Creole communities still exist, but in generaI,
no longer exists Jeads him ta self-isolation. His pride
Creoles have acknowledged their common racial bond
and stance, persevering when ail the odds are against
with dark-skinned blacks, and today, most ofthem have
him, give him an heraic aura that not only his Jaughter
integrated into black culture, and a few have passed
Catherine, but also Jackson admires. As Aunt Charlotte
into the white world as RaouI's daughter, Lillian, intends
relies on Jackson ta redeem her remaining years, and
refuses ta share him with any other woman, sa Raoul
Raoul is among those who refuse ta relinquish
relies on Catherine's presence and love ta sustain him
the Creole identity. He refuses ta ally himself ta darker
in his fight against the Cajuns and their machines. This
blacks even though, they, tao, are being displaced by
love is sa deep that it has incestuous undertones, and
the Cajuns. I-Iowever, as Davis notes, «the boundaries
makes Catherine hesitate ta leave with Jackson.
encircling the quarters-the physicaI and psychological
The novel implies the disappearance ofAunt
boundaries--enclose aIl the people of co 1or, and thus,
Charlotte's and Raoul's world. Jackson will depart
his attempt ta establish.artificial intemal boundaries and
fram the South in llis quest «to make something out of
create the crime of trespassing is ineffectual, even
a senseless world» (CC. p. SI ),leaving Aunt Charlotte
ludicrous».' The whites consider blacks and Creoles
ta devote her remaining years ta the church. In a similar
as the same, but the Creoles insist on a social and
vein, Raoul is irremediably alone in his pathetical and
cultural difference from blacks.
futile fight against The Cajuns. He has been so
The Creoles' insistence on a separate identity is
conditioned by the past ta hate ail blacks that he kills
an attempt ta escape the trope of race. Since blacks
Mark, his illegitimate dark son, who could have earried
have been defined as inferior, as the «othem, ta daim a
on the fight. As Jackson has rejected black culture. sa
different identity is ta refuse the status ofthat «other.»
Lillian tao rejects Creole culture, whieh she describes
But the whites' attitude shows the Creoles' and blacks'
as the «middle of the road:»
sameness as weIl as their difference: they are aIl
1can 't stand in the Illiddle of the road any longer. Neither
segregated against; the former are about ta lose their
can you, and neither can JOU let Nelson. Dadd) and his
land, and the latter have aIready lost theirs. Raoul feels
sisters can't understand this.
They want us to be
Creoles. Creoles. What ajoke. Today you're one way
no sense ofindusion in white society and, resorting ta
or the other; you're white or you're black. There is no
the same prejudice, he rejects black society which could
in-between (CC. p. 48).
have been the source of a fmitful affiliation. This is not
ta say that there is no difference between Creoles and
Only Raoul chooses ta remain in-between. Lillian
blacks. The difference is one ofsocial class, but race
chooses ta be white. Presumably. this is her last visi t to
being the trope ofultimate diftèrence, Raoul should have
her family. She will go north ta pass. But not aIl the
been open ta the possibility ofaffiliation. However, he
Creoles will maIœ the same choice. Given that chuiee.
chooses ta stand single-handedly against the Cajuns
Della will pre fer ta be black. As Madame Bayonne
and their machines, and refuses ta ally himselfto the
explains ta Jackson, «col or is skin deep. and below
darker blacks, even though they, tao, have aIready been
that Della is as much Negra as you or 1» (CC. p. 114).
displaced by the same Cajuns. In sa doing, Raoul helps
This is the idea that affiliation can be vo1untary. These
perpetuate the system which alienates and marginalizes
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internaI differences which attest to the disparity in the
Moreover, Gaines has said in an interview that Catherine
Creoles' allegiance point to the disappearance not only
is the kind of person who could not ex ist outside the
ofCreole culture, but ofthe Creole himselfas a third
South l . Catherine is astrong woman who will not let
caste. Raoul's defeat in the fist fight with Jackson, which
her love for Jackson supersede her sense ofobligation
shows him physically and spiritually crushed,
toward her father. These elements come in favor ofan
underscores that idea.
impossible future together for Catherine and Jackson.
The end of the novelleaves many elements on
However, in her love for Jackson and in her decision to
an uncertain note. In defeating Raoul, Jackson brings
leave with him, she shows her capacity for affiliation.
change in the major characters' lives. First, to my mind,
Given time and the new arder brought about by Raoul's
this defeat compromises forever his and Catherine's
defeat, herfiliation willleave enough room for affiliation.
lifetogether. The last sentences read: «He watched her
But where will Jackson take her? He wants to take
go into the house. He stood there, hoping that Catherine
her away, but he has nowhere to go, for, he feels at
would come back outside. But she neverdid» (CC. p.
home nowhere. In contrast to Raoul 's blindness to the
248). The tone here is noncommittal, leaving us the
choice ofrelationship with blacks, the lovers' choice to
choice of anumber of plausible readings. The word
leave is not one, because it does not exist, and
«nevem gives the definitive impressionJackson will have
Catherine Carmier closes on an ambiguous note.
ta leave without Catherine. But one can look at things
Catherine Carmier establishes the world that
from the point of view ofDella, for whom the change is
will be the setting ofall ofGaines' fiction. In this
for the better. Della sees a chance to work her way
world, the old order ofseparate races and ethnie
back into Raoul 's affection. As Keith Byerman explains,
group is being challenged, and the novel suggests it
Della is «in tune with the slow rhythms ofthe land and
will eventually be replaced by a new one announced
the folk»4. She has suffered for twenty years, never
by the echoes of the civil rights demonstrations. But
losing faith. There is no doubt in her mind that the fight
the time in Catherine Carmier is that ofa border
has produced a new order. She tells Jackson:
area, comprising at the same time elements of the
No, you right, you not a hero. But he's a proud man, and
change that sorne characters are pushing for and
after what happened tonight, he won 't even be able to
elements ofthe tradition that others wants to
raise his head in front ofher like he done before. 50 that
preserve. Thus. Grave Plantation is an in-between
means she'lI have to leave. He'll see tothat. And then
world, with a mixture of races, cultures, and attitudes.
1 get my chance-a chance 1 been waiting for twenty
Hence, the novel suggests that for Gaines, change is
years (CC, p. 247).
not the merereplacement ofthe old with the new, the
past with the modem, but a blending of the positive
By contrast, for Jackson who, in Byerman's
aspects from both.
words, «lives by the chronology ofthe modem, rational
world,»5 such confidence and patience are difficult ta
possess. Ifhe is to be reunited with Catherine, he must
leam these qualities. Similarly, Catherine herselfmust
undergo a change to be more aware ofher own life as
a separate individual instead of as a comforter to her
tàther. The conditions for such changes are present in
the novel even if Gaines does not make them clear.
1. Charles H. Rowell, ((This LOlUslana Thing Thal Orl'~es Me."))
Henry Louis Gales. Jr., (Editor's Introduction' Writing 'Race' and the
Difference it Makes.» Critical Inquiry. 12 (1985). p. 5.
Colla 100. 1 (1978). Special Gaines Issue. pp. 42-43
2-Thadiolls M. Davis,Headlands and Quarters. p. 7
, Ibid.
• Keith Byerm.n, Fingering the Jagged Grain. p. 70.
, Ibid.
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9. Harris, Norman, 1988. Connecting Times: The
1. Byerman, Keith E. (1985) "Fingering the Jagged
Sixties in Afi'o-American Fiction. Jackson, The
Grain: Tradition and Form" in Recent Black Fiction ,
University ofMississipi Press.
Athens, The UniversityofGeorgia Press.
10. Chester Hedgepetb, .Tr., 1986. Theories a/Social
2. Cal/aloo, 1 (1978), Special Gaines Issue.
Action in Black Literature, New York. Peter Lang.
3. Davis, Thadious M., 1984; «Headlands and
Il. Hicks, Jack, 1977. «To Make These Bones Live:
Quarters: Louisiana in
History and Community in Ernest Gaincs's Fiction,»
Catherine Carmier,»
Callaloo, 7, pp. 1-13.
Black American Literuture Forum, Il. pp. 9-19.
4. Folks, Jeffrey J., 1991. «Ernest Gaines and the
12. O'Brien, John, ed. 1973. «Ernest 1. Gaines,» in
New South», The Southern Literary Journal, 24,
Interviews with Black Writers , New York,
pp. 32·46.
5. Fuller, Hoyt, 1967. «Books Noted,» Negro
13. Rowell, Charles H., 1985. «Tbe Quaners: Ernest
Digest, 16, pp. 51-2.
Gaines and the Sense ofPlace,» The Southern
21, pp. 733-50.
6. Gaines, Ernest 1., 1968. «A Long Day in
Novembem in Bloodline, New York, The Dial Press.
14. Said, Edward w., 1983. The World. the TexI.
and the Critic, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard
7. Gaines, ErnestJ., 1981. Catherine Carmier, San
University Press.
Francisco, North Point Press.
15. Wright, Richard, 1965. The Outsider, New York.
8. Gates, Henry Louis, Ir., 1985. «Editor's Introduction:
Writing 'Race' and the Difference it Makes,» Critical
lnquiry, 12, pp. 1-20.
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