A Lesson Before Dying - Paper 1

Better Essays
Cotina Gould
ENG 102
April 11, 2012 Ernest J. Gaines-“A Lesson before Dying” “A Lesson before Dying is a fictional novel written by Ernest J. Gaines. Published and copy written in 1993, the novel is set to create an image of life in a small community in the 1940’s. Jefferson, a young black male is the name of the leading character. The story is based on a heart wrenching journey of a young, black male convicted of murder and sentenced to death in an era of discrimination, segregation and social inequality. The stories setting is a community outside of Bayonne which is narrated by a character named Grant Wiggins. The focal point is the pain and suffering that family and community faced in this story with helping Jefferson not only with facing the sentence of death, but a grieving family member fighting to help this young man with mental challenges understand that he was born human and will die human and not the ugly label of “hog” . “Gentleman of the jury, be merciful. For God’s sake, be merciful. He is innocent of all charges brought against him. But let us say he was not. Let us say for a moment he was not. What justice would there be to take this life? Justice gentleman? Why I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this”. (Chap. 1, pg. 8) My analysis of this story weighs on multiple dynamics: * A young black man with mental challenges caught up in an unfortunate circumstance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time in an era of racial inequality * Guilty verdict of a black male that pleaded not guilty of the murder of a white store owner * The effect of the defenses argument about Jefferson’s innocence and how it contributed to the jury’s verdict * The plight of Miss Emma to assure her godson and help him understand that he will die a man and not the hog Grant Wiggins is a teacher on a plantation that is asked to perform the difficult task of helping Jefferson



Cited: “A Lesson Before Dying”, Ernest Gaines, Vintage Contemporaries, 1993

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