Theme Of Religion In A Lesson Before Dying

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Ernest J. Gaines once said, “We all know- at least intellectually- that we are going to die. The difference is being told, “Okay, it’s tomorrow at 10 a.m.” How do you react to that? How do you face it? That, it seems, to me, is the ultimate test of life.” Throughout literature, a common pattern of allusion directly relating back to Jesus Christ, his death, and the Bible is found. One such novel, A Lesson Before Dying written by Ernest J. Gaines, follows the story of a poor, black working man and his journey of self- significance and realization in a series of Jesus Christ symbolism. Although most pieces of didactic writing share little relationship with religion, it can be seen through religious imagery in A Lesson Before Dying that Jefferson…show more content…
Bryant said it best when he depicted Ernest J. Gaines as a “contemporary American novelist whose work has produced in me…the sense of depth, the sense of humanity and compassion, and the sense of honesty that is only found in [Gaines’s] fiction.” (Curley 245). Because Gaines grew up in a similar town as the fictitious Bayonne, he has the firsthand point of view that his characters in A Lesson Before Dying had, such as picking cane, severing ties between other blacks to each other, and going to a church functioning as not only a place of worship but also a place of education (Curley 246).In an interview regarding religion within his writing, Gaines said, “…the church play[s] the role of making people complacent with their lot on earth and offering them rewards in the hereafter. The ministers [and Grant] are seen as the major perpetrators of this belief, as well as the major beneficiaries.” (Nash 347). It is apparent that the church maintains this significant position of power in the novel as church’s school teacher doubling as the protagonist, Mr. Wiggins, collaborates…show more content…
Ernest J. Gaines’s literature’s primary role is to expand the societal normalities of African American history from a religious perspective. Shown as an isolated and persecuted figure, Jefferson can be considered a symbol of hope, victory, and freedom from oppression as his transition to manhood comes with the ultimate price- death, just as Jesus Christ’s life did. It is clear that the significance of religion in writing serves the purpose of providing the reader with an opportunity to relate to the story. Jefferson is meant to be the small and helpless character, who eventually develops into a man with power, power to change the world. It is only through the didacticism of Gaines’s literature in which a myth that white people are “better than anyone else on earth” that Jefferson is more than what his modern society made him to be. From Mr. Wiggins to Jefferson, “You can be bigger than anyone you have ever met.” Jefferson is able to overcome his societal and racial boundaries through his physical awakening on the day of his death. In the everlasting words of
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