Their Is A Lesson Before Dying

A Hog? A Man?

The story "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines contains the story of a man by the name of Jefferson whom is a example of being at the wrong place at the wrong time which ultimetly costed Jefferson his life by being sentence to the electric chair. During his court case the lawyer tries to lower his sentencing by stating to the jury that he is a unintelligent hog. The godmother of Jefferson, Miss Emma Glenn had taken offence to this statement and wanted to do something about it. Miss Emma (Nannan) came to the conclusion to ask the Teacher Grant Wiggins, whom graduated from a university, to go visit jefferson and make him understand that he is a man and not a unintelligent hog that the lawyer stated to the jury (" I want the teacher visit my boy. I want the teacher make him know he is not a hog, he is a man." pg.20). The statement referring to the hog also hit home with Jefferson whom now considers himself powerless and accepts his living death. It is understood by the people in this time era for a man to be powerful, which at this point in the novel is not shown by Jefferson. Miss Emma, after the decision by the twelve white men on the jury, becomes obsessed with making sure Jefferson dies "like a man", and not like a unintelligent, filthy like the lawyer had stated. Those actions shows the pride and strength that Miss Emma carries throughout the trial and incarceration.


"A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gains shows a relationship between his book and the time era that his book was written into, which was the 1940's. It was a time where whites dominated socially and felt like blacks were inferior to them. That concept of what to black relationship is rooted deeply throughout the entire novel. The first showing of how whites dominated the social networking the novel is Jefferson's court trial where all twelve jurers were white, along with the lawyers, and the judge, just as it was in the 1940's. The jury being all white were not concerned about what happen to this black male, who is considered to be inferior, so it made the judge happy when the jury came to a quick decision to put Jefferson in the electric chair (The judge commended the twelve white men for reaching a quick and verdict. pg 8). Jefferson in the story was guilty under the false pretense of killing three men. The lawyer, whom job was to defend Jefferson attacked him stripping him of his manhood, and says he is a tool that is incapable of thinking of his own; giving the impression that all the blacks were the same as Jefferso ("...A conered anaimal to strike quickly out of fear; a trait inherited from his ancestors in the deepest jungle of the blackest Africa...What you see here is a thing that acts on command, a thing to hold the handle of a plow, a thing to load your bales of cotton, a thing to dig ditches, to chop your wood, to pull your corn. That's what you see here. pg. 7-8). The trial clearly shows how dominate that the white race is by showing its power to strip Jefferson of his manhood, just as the whites have done during the 1940's.

Dynamic Character

Grant Wiggins, the narrator of the novel A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, grows up working a menial job, but escapes and goes to college ("I had not come through that back door once since leaving for the university, ten years before. ch.3; pg.19). Grant returns to his hometown, Bayonne, a secular, educated, young man. Grant returned to a place that respected him because he has been to a university ("I had gone off to the university and returned as a teacher, he treated me with great respect. pg40). Grant turns to bitterness, cynicism, and self-absorption because of the treatment of being inferior. Grant looking at his community deciding that, since the community is beyond hope, he cannot be blamed for failing, which is telling himself  he cannot make a diffrence because he is not God ("... Now his godmother wants me to visit him and make him know - prove to these white men - that he's not a hog, he's a man. Who am I? God?" pg.31). Grant's perpective changes through the novel as Grant talks to Vivian, Reverend Ambrose, and Aunt Tante Lou and the visits to Jefferson has givin Grant a new found confedence to strive for change without retreating and to believe and care for gis reponsibility and the people in his community ( " I think it's God that makes people care for people, Jefferson. I think it's God makes children play and people sing. I believe it's God that bring loved ones together. I believe it's God that makes trees bud and food grow out of the earth."  pg.223).

Court Trial.

The novel "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines contians many scenes showing racism, power, and the state of manhood. The court trial scene embodies everything that is contained within the novel. All events that occur throughout the entire novel is a repercussion of Jefferson's court case. The twelve white jury membersof the court case is the author's way of showing how dominating the whites were socially in the novel, as well as during the 1940's when World War II was taking place. The twelve white jury members were also the authors way of showing the dominance, and power of the whites during this time, only thinking that blacks are only good for working, and is incapable of thinking for themselves ("...Do you see a modicum of intelligence?...A trait inherited from his ancestors in the deepest jungle of blackest Africa...What you see here is a thing that acts on command. Ch.1 pg.7). The author forshadows Jefferson's noble death when the twelve white jury members are commended for their quick decision showing that the jury could care less about what happens to Jefferson ( "The judge commended the twelve white men for reaching a quick and just verdict"..."Death by electricution" Ch.1 pg.8-9).

A Point Of View

The novel "A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines was told through Grant Wiggins point of view. The author told the story through Grant Wiggins to get a more intellectual style of saying things, and not the southern less unitellingent way of saying things. If the author told the story through another character it would not be the same because of Grant's background in the university. The author also choose Grant Wiggins because he is the only character who knows about everything that happens in the novel, Grant seen Miss Emma's covnversation and determination to help him die nobly, which helps him in his time visiting Jefferson. Grant's view point helps the reader analyze evry aspect of the novel. The author told the story through Grant Wiggins point of view about Jefferson's last moments on the earth, but he shows the growth within the narrator, Grant, and he learning to care engough to not run away and never give in to the pressures of life. The author understates Grant Wiggin's growth as Grant tries to complete his mission in making sure Jefferson knows he is a man before he is executed.