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Feminism in “A Long Day in November” by Ernest Gaines Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Aug 21st, 2021

Introduction

His “A Long Day in November” from Bloodline is very tightly knitted among the five other stories in the 1970 book that featured the peculiar plight of Black Americans in the South although from a young boy’s narrative and point of view. It is a conflict that has arisen between husband-and-wife Amy and Eddie on their differing opinion about manhood as well as male responsibility. It opens with Amy deciding to abandon the marriage and brings along her young son Sonny back to her parents’ home. Her anger is rooted in her conviction that Eddie has been neglecting his family by spending too much time with his car.

However, from Eddie’s point of view, his efforts in working to support his family are enough, which is traditionally acceptable: a black male’s familial role. The situation, however, was aggravated by his attachment to his car and staying out late until the early mornings as a sign of his manhood, and the symbol of masculinity and independence in American culture. The situation was all seen through the eyes of Sonny, implying a deeper social husband and wife conflict. Sonny is under a social consciousness development, starting from awakening in the morning to a new environment where his separated parents give a bleak picture of a future about his expected family, to his return to bed at night. It seemed to him a long day in his growing years.

The son and the father

At the other end of Eddie, he discovers that after Amy left, the long-standing community consensus on masculinity disappears. Both the son and the father learn from opposite directions. As both Eddie and Sonny mingle and interact with males in each of their separate communities, they learn that the male definition within the community’s understanding has proven to be inadequate.

Eddie re-evaluates his perspective on his role, as well as on manhood, while Sonny develops one that is entirely different from his father’s. The conflict within the family further becomes complicated with Amy’s mother Rachel having her own traditional biases, including color and teeth gaps. Her traditional view was that a landed and hardworking man in the person of Freddie Jackson would be best for any woman including Amy, which the mother believes to fight at gunpoint.

On the other side, Eddie turns to a minister, then to a conjure woman for advice, as was the traditional method of counseling in the black community. Surprisingly, as ever abreast with the individual affairs of the members of the community, the conjure woman was able to provide a drastic suggestion addressing the problem of Eddie: burn his car.

It was noted that Ernest Gaines’ probe on community attitudes, values, beliefs, and its role in the shaping personality of an individual reflects the author’s high concern in his fiction (Roberts, 194). The community in this narrative is presented as having strong communal bonds where black folk culture emphasizes community-defined values and behaviors. These values, specific definition, and perception of manhood, however, were to make a change in the events between Amy and Eddie. Amy as an individualist who was also affected by tradition and what the community says, finally was able to make Eddie accept his manhood as responsibility in a more proactive manner in the family as well as its symbolical burning of the car that was the root of the conflict.

Conclusion

In the end, individualism as representative of feminism triumphs as a better alternative against a restrictive and biased viewpoint on traditional manhood as may be popularly dictated by tradition or trend.

Reference

Gaines, Ernest. (1970). “A Long Day in November” from Bloodline.

Roberts, J.W. (1984). “The Individual and the Community in Two Short Stories by Ernest Gaines.” Black American Literature Forum 18 (3), 110-113. Indiana State University.

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"Feminism in “A Long Day in November” by Ernest Gaines." IvyPanda, 21 Aug. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-in-a-long-day-in-november-by-ernest-gaines/.

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IvyPanda. "Feminism in “A Long Day in November” by Ernest Gaines." August 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-in-a-long-day-in-november-by-ernest-gaines/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Feminism in “A Long Day in November” by Ernest Gaines." August 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/feminism-in-a-long-day-in-november-by-ernest-gaines/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Feminism in “A Long Day in November” by Ernest Gaines'. 21 August.

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