A Lesson Before Dying

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A Lesson Before Dying; an intriguing story of a teacher and an inmate touching each other’s lives. As an innocent and naïve boy is taken off to prison for the accusation of murdering a white man, will a reluctant schoolteacher be able to turn him into a man before facing death row? Grant Wiggins is faced with this haunting task in Gaines’ twentieth century novel. Grant Wiggins had been teaching in a church in Louisiana, when a local boy named Jefferson is accused of murder and sentenced to death. In actuality, Jefferson is innocent of the crime. He tagged along with two men who were on their way to a liquor store. The storeowner began arguing with them, and a shootout occurred. The storeowner and the two men died, and Jefferson was left at the scene of the crime alone with the gun. He was arrested and tried for murder. Jefferson’s lawyer argues in court that Jefferson is nothing but a hog, and therefore incapable of committing such a crime. The jury still brings back a guilty verdict. Upon hearing the lawyer’s speech, Jefferson’s godmother, Miss Emma, wishes for Jefferson to die like a man, not a hog. She asks Grant for help, as he is an educated man. He despises the wrongdoings done to his fellow black men, but he does not want to get involved in Jefferson’s case. However, after immense amounts of force from his aunt Lou, he agrees to try to help Jefferson. Jefferson resists Grant’s attempts to reach him. Grant spends many uncomfortable visits in the cell with Jefferson. When Grant attempts to teach Jefferson about dignity, Jefferson insists that dignity is for humans, not hogs. He imitates a hog and tries to anger Grant with ignorance, but Grant keeps his cool. Each visit ends in failure, but Grant continues to try to reach Jefferson. On his fourth visit, Grant gets Jefferson’s attention with a conversation about his final meal. Jefferson admits that he wants a gallon of ice cream because he almost never had any. This conversation begins to break down the...
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