A Lesson Before Dying By Ernest J. Gaines Essay

1068 Words Nov 13th, 2015 5 Pages
Sometimes individuals must face tasks that might be against their will, but agreements made in life are promises that people have to follow up on. When an individual has an emotional attachment to something they must do, it becomes a commitment. Ernest J. Gaines’ novel, A Lesson Before Dying, tells the story of Jefferson, an uneducated, young black man, and Grant Wiggins, a male school teacher, who both struggle in a racist southern community. Living in Louisiana in the 1940s, blacks lead lives that are viewed as minor from a white’s perspective. Although Grant has duties that must be fulfilled for the benefit of himself and others, he finds them difficult because he feels irrelevant to the world. Grant initially feels obligated to see Jefferson in jail, teach students, and find religion, but these tasks turn into commitments when he finds connections.
Commitments can turn into obligation when an individual forms an emotional bond to the task. When Jefferson is wrongly accused of murder, he is sentenced to death since he is a young black man against a jury of white men. Tante Lou, Grant’s aunt, forces Grant to visit Jefferson in jail to convince Jefferson that his life still has meaning. At first Grant believes that, “[Jefferson’s] dead now. And [he] can’t raise the dead. All [Grant] can do is try to keep others from ending up like this- but [Jefferson’s] gone from us. There is nothing [Grant] can do anymore (Gaines 14).” Grant knows that Jefferson is at the bottom of the…

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