Justitia, the goddess of justice, is portrayed with a blindfold holding scales and a sword, but she, in applying her scales and sword, has never been colorblind in the U. S. 1
Ernest J. Gaines accuses the legal injustice against the black population through an innocent convict, Jefferson's death in A Lesson Before Dying. However, Gaines penetrates the fact that the legal injustice is rather a result than a cause. Behind the unfair legal system, a huge matrix of the cultural injustice, which always already presumes the colored people as criminals, does exist. Gaines, thus, puts more stress on Jefferson's transformation from a "hog" to a man. Unbinding himself from the humiliating self-notion, a cultural construction in a white ruling society, and establishing his own humanity, Jefferson exemplifies the potentiality of black empowerment against the prevalent racial injustices.2 Gaines's insight and craftsmanship, which channel the legal injustice into the cultural frame, make the novel an outstanding masterpiece of the century.
First, Jefferson's case provides a great example of the injustice in the American legal system in the antebellum society. Since "white" America did not count the black population as her citizens, the law was totally on the dominant white people's side.3 Jefferson's trial is just an official gesture or ritual. No matter what happens during the trial, Jefferson is doomed to death. The legal system operates just as a means of vengeance. If a white man is killed, a black man has to die for him. One of the most striking things about Jefferson's trial is the fact that, even before the conviction, every...
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...n justice. Grant's criticism against the decision making process of the date illuminates the hypocrisy of America as a Christian country. Nevertheless, Jefferson is described as a Christ-like figure. On Gaines's skepticism about Christianity, see Critical Reflections on the Fiction of Ernest J. Gaines, David C. Estes ed. (Athens, GA: University of Georgia P, 1994), 77-84 and 257-59.
6 Herman Beavers, Wrestling Angels into Song: The Fictions of Ernest J. Gaines and James Alan McPherson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania P, 1995), 174.
7 On the relation between the "white" law and cultural discourse that justifies the racism within legal system, Grant says, "They play by the rules their forefathers created hundreds of years ago. Their forefathers said that we're only three-fifths human - and they believe it to this day" (192).
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