“A Lesson before Dying” Analytical Essay
For those who have ever taught someone, it may be known that one will learn a lot more while teaching than they actually teach. In “A Lesson before Dying”, a novel written by Ernest J. Gaines, a myriad of characters learn various lessons, due to their involvement and exposure to the fierce racism surrounding their 1940’s Louisiana town. One character in particular, Grant Wiggins, was exposed to many obstacles, which thus altered his behavior and persona. Within the novel, Wiggins learned lessons that changed his understanding of his town and surroundings, as well as his own mental perceptions of the world around him.
Perhaps the most important lesson Grant learned was to not let his place in society’s racial hierarchy influence his life entirely. As a college graduate, Grant is more educated and sophisticated than he was growing up in his small Louisiana town. However, to whites, he is still seen as inferior, and subordinate to those who may even be less educated than he is. This treatment by the whites enrages Grant, yet he takes a passive stance against the prejudice. Not feeling as if his words, thoughts, or actions as a black man can ever influence anything, he decides to uphold silence, and thus mentally removes himself from his community. It is not until he begins meeting with Jefferson in prison that he learns his words, in fact, do have meaning. While reading Jefferson’s diary after his death, he sees primarily just what a positive impact his words can have on those willing to listen. Through interactions with other black friends and family in town, he realizes how much of an important factor he is to the black community; his education and role as a “community leader” brings feelings of hope to the black students he teaches, as well as other menial blacks he comes into contact with, such as Jefferson. Grant learns that, although he may be black and perpetually voiceless on a grand scale, he is still able to...
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