In the book “A Lesson Before Dying” Grant Wiggins, an educated black man who returns home to his Cajun plantation quarter community to teach, undergoes a dramatic transformation. The events that precipitate such changes in Grant begin with a request for him to teach Jefferson, a young black man convicted of murder, that he is indeed worthy to be called a man. This is significant because Grant himself retains negative feelings towards himself due to the disrespect towards anyone black, educated or not, by the white community. Central to Grant’s belief of himself and every other black man was based on the thoughts of his own teacher, Matthew Antoine. Repeatedly Antoine would tell his students that in order to be free of a violent death by the white community they must run from the life in the quarter. Upon Grant’s return from the university, Antoine continued this from of degradation, “Just stay here long enough,...He’ll make you the nigger you were born to be.” It is from this point that Antoine has forcibly placed on Grant that his transformation takes place.
His reluctance to teach Jefferson slowly enables Grant to view himself as well as Jefferson as the men that they truly are. This begins with Reverend Ambrose’s convictions that Jefferson as well as Grant must first find their soul. Reverend Ambrose subtly convicts Grant even though it takes Jefferson’s death for Grant to see it. “No you not educated, boy,…You far from being educated. You learned your reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, but you don’t know nothing. You don’t even know yourself.” These words from Reverend Ambrose spark something deep inside Grant that smolders only to surface later when Grant can fully comprehend the truth that frees him into being able to change.
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