A Gathering of Men and Boys
What is a man? Webster's first definition is: "an individual human being; esp. an adult male human," Not helpful. Perhaps the third part of that definition: "One possessing in a high degree the qualities considered distinctive of manhood." Ernest J. Gaines' comes up with the definition of a man in his novel, A Gathering of Old Men. In the book a porch in rural Louisiana becomes filled with old black men who all claim responsibility for the murder of a Cajun man, Beau Boutan. At the end of the book it is clear that the actions of the characters show clearly what a man is and what a man isn't.
A man is not a coward. This statement is affirmed by the actions of Charlie, who is discovered to be the actual killer of Beau. "I'm a man . I want the world to know it.
I ain't Big Charlie, nigger boy, no more, I'm a man. Y'all hear me? A man come back. Not no nigger boy. A nigger boy run and run and run. But a man come back. I'm a man." (page 187) Charlie makes this affirmation when he returns to take responsibility for the murder of Beau. He goes on to describe what makes him come back: the desire to not be an outlaw, the need to finish what he started. His conscience.
Not everyone takes responsibility for their actions in the 1983 novel. Luke Will, the stereotypical racist who comes to avenge the murder says "we can make a run for it. Make Tee Jack swear we never left there tonight," (page205) after beginning a gun fight with the old men. When Charlie drags Mathu into the murder, placing the blame on him, Charlie eventually comes back.