Essay Topics - a Lesson Before Dying

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Study Questions
1. Why is Grant initially so reluctant to help Jefferson?
Answer for Study Question 1 >>
Grant’s reluctance stems from his inability to confront his own fears and insecurities. Initially he tells Tante Lou that he cannot help Jefferson, implying that Jefferson is beyond hope. When Grant visits Jefferson and Jefferson behaves aggressively, Grant tells his aunt that he does not wish to proceed because he refuses to let Jefferson make him feel guilty. Although Grant is convinced that Jefferson is trying to make him feel guilty, Jefferson seems to bear no malice toward Grant in particular. Grant’s unnecessary self-defense points to his subconscious conviction that he does bear a certain amount of the blame for Jefferson’s situation, or at least for refusing to try to help Jefferson live with dignity. Grant fears failure. When he sees Jefferson’s poor mental and emotional state, he fears he might fail if he tries to help Jefferson. He also does not want to deal with Jefferson because Jefferson, by intentionally fulfilling whites’ stereotypes, forces Grant to look at a physical embodiment of all the brutishness white men attribute to black men. Grant’s unwillingness to act on Jefferson’s behalf is part of his general unwillingness to participate in his society. He strives to keep himself separate from the unjust and oppressive world around him, and he loathes his own people because their plight depresses him. Grant knows that Jefferson’s life will end because of the bigotry of a white jury, a white attorney, and a white judge. He knows that such juries exist everywhere in the country and that Jefferson grew up powerless to fight the system. He also knows that someone who realizes that such injustices exist can fight them, and that if he fails to fight them, he can be held responsible for them. In order to avoid thinking about his own complicity in the racist system, Grant initially does not want to help...
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