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The Sky Is Gray - Story

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In the short story "The Sky is Gray", Ernest J. Gaines shows the struggles, inflicted by poverty, in an eight-year-old boys life. This poor, Negro boy, James, lives with his mother and five other relatives while his father is away. His father has gone to war, his mother is a very proud woman, and James does not want to be a financial burden on his mother; all these circumstances take a toll in making James' life tougher.

James' father is drafted into the early part of World War 2. This leaves James' mother to raise the children and support the entire family. In effect the family has very little money. The family doesn't own a car and barely has money to ride the bus to town. At times, it seems as if James is starving. His clothes don't even keep him warm in the cold. Times are hard for the family when James' father is away.

James' mother, Octavia, is a very proud woman. Her pride has an effect on James' life. She does not accept any form of charity. An old woman offers Octavia and James some food, but Octavia declines the offer until James does some chores for the woman. James had to work instead of getting a free meal because his mother would not let him accept charity. Octavia tried to purchase some salt meat from the old woman but makes the woman cut the offered chunk of meat in half because Octavia thinks the portion of meat that the woman offers is an act of charity on the old woman's behalf. Taking the portion of meat that the woman offered would have saved the family some money. In section 5 of "The Sky is Gray," (pg.90) James is forced by his mother to kill a redbird for food. James did not want to kill the redbirds, but because they were poor and with little money he had to learn to take care of the family in case his mother had to go away. They were just teaching him that in case something happened in the future, he could take care of himself and rest of the family.

The final toll, inflicted by poverty, in James' life is the fact that James does not want to be a financial burden upon his mother. James has a severe toothache, but he does not tell his mother because he does not want to trouble her. This causes James much suffering. Octavia tells James they are going to town to get his tooth fixed, but James tells her his tooth does not hurt even though it is killing him. James is willing to walk instead of riding the bus



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