A Lesson Before Dying: the Story

Topics: Capital punishment / Pages: 9 (2001 words) / Published: Apr 9th, 2002
A Lesson before Dying, one of Ernest J. Gaines later works, was written in 1993. Some of his earlier works include A Gathering of Old Men and In My Father's House. The novel covers a time period when blacks were still treated unfairly and looked down upon. Jefferson, a main character, has been wrongly accused of a crime and awaits his execution in jail. Grant, the story's main protagonist must find it within himself to help Jefferson see that he is a man, which will allow him to walk bravely to his fate that lies in the execution chair. A Lesson before Dying captures the tale of a young teacher, who by helping another mistakenly finds his own soul. This paper explains the literary background of Gaines, facts about the novel, literary criticism, film reviews, social issues of the time, and a personal analysis of the movie.

The story begins with a trial of Jefferson being accused of murder. During the trial his lawyer calls him a hog that is not even worthy of the death penalty. Ultimately Jefferson is sentenced to death by electrocution. During the weeks following Miss Emma, who is Jefferson's "nanan", wishes for Grant Wiggins, a young schoolteacher to speak with Jefferson and make him understand that he is a man. Although Grant refuses he is forced to go by Tante Lou, his aunt and a good friend of Miss Emma's. Upon their first few visits Jefferson is cold towards Grant and Miss Emma, obviously believing he is a hog, as the attorney has stated. He refuses food offered by his "nanan", saying that "food aint for hogs." After Frequent visits, Jefferson begins to open himself up to Grant and speak about his feelings. Once Jefferson trusts Grant he is able to realize that he is a man and not a worthless hog. Through helping Jefferson become a man, Grant has done his own unconscious soul searching which has helped him find who he is, and has found him a place with God.

Ernest J. Gaines was an African American writer who was born on January 15, 1933 in Oscar,

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