A Lesson Before Dying, Jefferson And Grant Essays

A Lesson Before Dying, Jefferson And Grant Essays

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How can someone be truly free? Freedom can be achieved by anyone willing to make positive change for themselves or for others. The ability to achieve freedom is a multifaceted issue because some people believe freedom is a choice while others think freedom is decided for you. In Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying, Jefferson and Grant struggle over what it means to be free. In the novel, Jefferson, a convicted murder set to be executed, and Grant Wiggins, a school teacher, are trapped either literarily or figuratively. Jefferson is trapped physically by his jail cell and his belief that he is a worthless human being. On the other hand, Grant is trapped by the black community that has suffered for hundreds of years. Each character learns to understand his restrictions in a white Louisiana society in the 1940s and explores the potential of true freedom. One thing is clear: initially both Jefferson and Grant struggle to find freedom in a discriminatory society because they cannot understand what they need to become free, but ultimately only Jefferson is able to create change and overcome obstacles to achieve freedom.
Although Jefferson was stripped of his freedom by the whites in his town, he ultimately found purpose in his life by understanding how to achieve the freedom that he has been longing for. Jefferson initially believes freedom is an inherent characteristic that he is unable to achieve, but ultimately he learns freedom can be achieved by anyone no matter their race or status. During Jefferson’s trial, his defense lawyer argued that he was nothing but a “hog”. For Jefferson this hog reference highlighted that most believed he has no purpose in life and showed that he had internalized the hatred that the white community spew...


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... what being a human really means, and he inspires the black community by walking to his death like a man. Conversely, Grant tries to adjust the future of black men by remaining in his hometown, but he is never devoted enough to challenge the whites. Jefferson and Grant each make attempts to achieve basic human rights for themselves and ultimately their entire race. Robert F. Kennedy also speaks about human rights in his his “Day of Affirmation Address”, as he speaks out for a similar change in Cape Town as he states, “the enlargement of liberty for all individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any Western society” (Kennedy). No matter the audience, all individuals have the potential to fight for change and achieve freedom. Jefferson through his simple action, obtained freedom. Grant, failing to take such a step, ultimately does not.

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