A Lesson Before Dying Character Analysis

analytical Essay
710 words
710 words

Ernest J. Gaines 1933 novel, A Lesson Before Dying, is African American fiction set in the town of Bayonne, Louisiana. In his novel, Gaines tells the story of an educated black teacher, Professor Grant Wiggins, who is sent to teach a wrongly convicted young man put on death row, Jefferson, how to “be a man” before his execution. Throughout the novel, the development of the relationship between Grant and Jefferson concludes in a positive correlation with the development of both individual characters. When the relationship is first created, Grant and Jefferson both negatively influence the other. During his Grant’s first private visit with Jefferson, Jefferson goes beyond being merely unresponsive, and begins acting out, trying to upset Grant. He does things like “eat like a hog” in which he shoves his face into the basket of food prepared for him and tries to eat with no hands, or he describes how the prison is fattening him up to be slaughtered on Christmas. At this point in the …show more content…

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how ernest j. gaines' 1933 novel, a lesson before dying, is african american fiction set in bayonne, louisiana. the relationship between grant and jefferson concludes in a positive correlation with the development of both individual characters.
  • Analyzes how grant and jefferson negatively influence each other during their first private visit. jefferson's behavior brings out the worst in grant.
  • Analyzes how grant is shown to be a bitter, cynical man, and recognizes the disgusting mistreatment by whites despite his education. jefferson's sentencing reaffirms his beliefs.
  • Analyzes how grant and jefferson's relationship results in a positive outcome. grant offers jefferson vanilla ice cream and the radio.
  • Analyzes how grant makes advances in his character development, although they are subtle. he admits that jefferson is more of a man than grant, which he never would have entertained before meeting jefferson.

He himself recognizes these changes, and on his last visit with Jefferson admits “My eyes were closed before this moment, Jefferson. My eyes have been closed all my life” (Gaines, 225). Grant is telling Jefferson that Jefferson is more of a man than Grant, which is a concept that Grant never would have entertained before he met Jefferson because he believed that an educated man such as himself was above uneducated black men. This change alters his trait of self-absorption, possibly displaying its removal all together. He also becomes less bitter toward white men. After the execution, Paul asks Grant to “allow [him] to be [his] friend” to which Grant accepts (Gaines, 255). This is the first time the reader is aware of that Grant has befriended a white man. Prior to his friendship with Jefferson, Grant was bitter, but because of Jefferson, he is now able to let go of some bitterness and accept

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