Deconstruction of "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest Gaines

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Nicole Schafer 
Jefferson a poorly educated black boy from Bayonne, Louisiana, is convicted for murder of a liquor storeowner after being convinced to tag along by two young men. Grant Wiggins is a well educated black man who has devoted his life to teaching youngsters, but his and Jefferson’s paths cross when Grant’s God Mother, Miss Emma, requested Grant help Jefferson die a man, instead of a hog as his attorney referred to him as. Jefferson portrays himself as a hog due to circumstances at his trial; he then loses a sense of personal identity which transverses into a quest for societal identity because his death (dying with pride and dignity) represents his community as a whole which conveys a light of hope and prosperity. Each and every individual dies with the desire to represent any moment of time in their life that has any sort of significance to them whether it be selfishness, pride, integrity, dignity or merely a concrete belief that completes their life purpose. Jefferson is portrayed as “A cornered animal…” (Gaines, 7), because of the brutality of his crime and, because of the lack of his intelligence he is viewed as nothing more than a “…Hog…” (Gaines, 8). He is torn down and dehumanized by these “…honorable men…” (Gaines, 8), who are supposed to represent a society of better morals, improved class, better economic status and more power. He does not just lose his personal identity, but he is stripped from it and every human right he has because of his skin color and the result of not having a privileged educational system compared to his oppressors. A man should not be stripped of his rights as a human being because of the lack of intelligence or prejudice against their skin color. These men, who break Jefferson down, are anything but honorable. They are no better than an actual murderer themselves because they are committing the same crime with the only difference being there is no direct action. Now because of the absence of his personal identity,...
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