A Hero Within

Topics: Black people, White people, Hero Pages: 3 (1181 words) Published: July 15, 2013
Everywhere you turn society today seems to be keen on portraying African Americans as a scapegoat to white societal issues and inadequacies. Ernest Gaines exemplifies this idea in the novel A Lesson Before Dying in which a young black man, Jefferson, is sentenced to trial and execution for what can be considered a “wrong place and wrong time” incident. Grant, who is an educator in the community, plays the role of a cynic and buffer between Jefferson and the rest of the community. He begins this novel as a somewhat worn out empty husk of what his full potential can fully allow. In a society that is dominated by white people in a post slavery pro-racist world very few opportunities present themselves for African Americans, such as Jefferson or Grant, that allow for growth and fulfillment of one’s existence. As the novel progresses Gaines provides the right elements to allow for self-fulfillment and growth for both characters that lead to life changing epiphanies and ultimately allow for a hero figure to rise. Although almost opposite in composition both Jefferson and Grant lack elements that allow them to feel whole and truly live. As individuals both struggle to live in a world that seeks to oppress causing each to barely live, but through their combined experiences and shared struggles, each are able to break the chains of oppression and rise to their ultimate potential. Grant begins the novel feeling distanced from the other members of the black community while at the same time feeling intrinsically bound to them. He feels pressured to conform to a society in which white people are superior and give little to no privilege to blacks. This idea is furthered as Dr. Joseph visits Grant’s school and compliments his students mentioning that they are a “good crop”, insinuating that the black students are subhuman or objects for a slave type of work. Although Grant’s inadequacies leave him feeling conflicted, hollow, and helpless to do anything but run away, he often...
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