How Does a Lesson Before Dying Explore the Idea That in Confronting Something in Their Culture, People Confront Something in Themselves?

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By Ernest Gaines

TOPIC: How does A Lesson before dying explore the idea that in confronting something in their culture, people confront something in themselves?

A Lesson before Dying explores the confrontation of injustice and the resulting internal transformation. The destructive nature of a fatalistic outlook, in perceiving the state of black oppression as an ‘inescapable cycle,’ is explored in contrast with the liberating ideals of individualism - in tackling injustice and taking control of your life. Grant and Jefferson’s initially pessimistic attitudes led to a view of subjugation as unavoidable, but as their relationship develops they gradually realise the simple heroism of confronting racial prejudice and defying stereotypes. This realisation has led to a confrontation and re-evaluation of their personal values and beliefs concerning their identity and the society as a whole.

Grant’s education, instead of teaching him to better contribute to his community, has led him only to realise his boundaries and loathe the lowly state of his own people. His self perception of being superior to the majority, coupled with the belief of his society’s incapability of change has led to Grant’s cynical and detached behaviour and his yearning for escape. Grant’s monumental aim to restore Jefferson’s sense of dignity and humanity is reciprocated in himself, and he begins to challenge and confront the prevalent injustice: ‘The white people are saying...that you're a hog, not a man. But I know they are wrong’ (Gaines, 2002, pg 191). In doing so, Grant becomes aware of and confronts his disconnected position from his community and begins to reconnect and identify himself as part of the society, relinquishing the idea of his superiority: ‘I cry... because, lowly as I am, I am still part of the whole’ (Gaines, 2002, pg 194). Grant’s...
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