A Lesson Before Dying | Fiction & LiteratureWith an OverDrive account, you can save your favorite libraries for at-a-glance information about availability. Find out more about OverDrive accounts. A young man who returns to s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a crime he didn't commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting. Ernest J.
Read Along "A Lesson Before Dying" ch. 1
A Lesson Before Dying
And education plays a key thematic role in the novel. In fact, in the beginning of the novel, there seems to be no evidence that education, as traditionally understood, yields any long-term results whatsoever. Grant runs a schoolhouse, filled by poor black students, out of the local church. Then there are people like Grant himself, who use their education to get a job teaching to the next generation of students. Not only does Grant not have time to prepare Jefferson for a brighter future; Jefferson has no future. Grant is teaching Jefferson morality, not arithmetic.
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Pssst… we can write an original essay just for you. When first starting to read the novel, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, the reader can predict that the person who is going to be learning a lesson before dying is going to be Jefferson because he is the one convicted for a robbery and murder he did not commit, and is set for the death penalty. Jefferson is referred to as a hog, by his attorney, and really takes this to heart. The reader can see how this has affected Jefferson from the first few visits from Grant, and Jefferson starts eating on all fours like an animal. Tante Lou and Miss Emma want Grant to start visiting Jefferson to try and help teach that Jefferson that he is a man, and that he must die with dignity, not as a hog. As continuing to read the novel the reader can also infer that it is going to be Jefferson who learns a lesson because of the numerous visits from Grant. These visits from Grant takes a huge role in this novel as the plot and the themes revolve around these visits.
The legal system is similar. The racism inherent in the trial is perhaps made most obvious by the defense attorney whose job it is to represent Jefferson. This attorney urges the jury to acquit Jefferson on the grounds that Jefferson is more similar to a hog than to a man, and deserves mercy for that reason. The novel can be seen as depicting the struggle of not just Jefferson, but also Grant and other black characters, to live or even to die like humans — with dignity and self-respect — in a brutally racist world. At the same time, the novel also shows how the black characters in A Lesson Before Dying have themselves absorbed the racist ideas of which they are the victims. For instance, Vivian is lighter skinned than most of the black people in Bayonne, which immediately attracts the interest of the other black characters. And, later, Grant thinks to himself that mulattoes—people of mixed racial heritage—despise dark-skinned black people as much as white people do.
Gaines Ernest J. Gaines was born in on the River Lake plantation in Pointe Coupe Parish, Louisiana, the setting for most of his fiction; he was the fifth generation in his family to be born there. At the age of nine he was picking cotton in the plantation fields; the black quarter's school held classes only five or six months a year. Gaines published his first short story in He has also been awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant, for writings of "rare historical resonance.