Dignity In J. Gaines A Lesson Before Dying

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In the novel A Lesson Before Dying published by Earnest J. Gaines in 1993, an uneducated young man Jefferson witnesses and survives a shooting incident between two African American burglars and a white shop owner. Shortly after, Jefferson is prosecuted for murder, and his claim of innocence is ruthlessly ignored. Shocked and devastated, Jefferson refuses to do all the things that characterizes him as a human, including talking and eating “human” food. His concerned mother pleads to the teacher in town, Grant Wiggins, to make Jefferson a “man” again before his execution takes place. Throughout the course that leads up to the execution, the two African American men seeks human dignity through hardship and struggle, affecting each other in a very positive way. At the end of the novel, Jefferson is able to die as a “man.” Gains develops his novel and its character through in-depth use of motif, symbolism, and literary devices to successfully picture this relationship between two characters. …show more content…
Throughout the novel, unjust atmosphere peeks through, making the situation harder than it already is for Jefferson and Grant. On the day of the trial, both the judge and the juror disregard Jefferson because he is a colored man. Even his own public defender tries to vindicate him by lowering him and calling him a “hog,” and asked “What justice would there be to take this life? Justice, gentlemen? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this.” (Gains 8) The defense attorney is stating that there is not even a need to execute Jefferson since he is inferior to a human being. As a result of this unfair treatment, Jefferson loses his dignity and sense of himself as a “man,” claiming that he is indeed a

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