A Lesson Before Dying Theme Essay

1262 Words 6 Pages
Imprisoned There are different ways that a person can be imprisoned. They do not always have to be physically in jail to feel racially, mentally and emotionally damaged by the environment in which they live. Ernest J. Gaines’s novel, A Lesson Before Dying, follows the intelligent Grant Wiggins as he tries to bring a “sense of humanity” to a wrongly convicted Jefferson. Grant Wiggins is a teacher at a local, all black plantation school. Jefferson is a prisoner who has been typecasted as a hog and is also sentenced to death. In the book, Grant struggles to teach Jefferson how to find value in his life so he can die with dignity. Grant is faced with racism and prejudice everywhere he goes which causes him to lose his religion after going off …show more content…
Grant’s first visit to Jefferson in prison was an unpleasant one. He was searched and criminalized by the security officers. This leaves him emotionally vulnerable because it reminds him of what his Professor had once told him. Grant is emotionally frustrated with his aunt and yells at her for what he is forced to do,“Now going up to that jail. To watch them put their dirty hands on that food. To search my body each time as if [he is] some kind of common criminal. Maybe today they’ll want to look into [his] mouth, or [his] nostrils, or make [him] strip. Anything to humiliate [him]. All the things you wanted [him] to escape by going to school. Years ago, Professor Antoine told me that if [he] stayed here, they were going to break [him] down to the nigger [he] was born to be. But he didn’t tell [him] that [his] aunt would help them do it.” (64) The pressure of being treated like a criminal and being forced to do these demeaning tasks takes a toll on Grant’s emotional state. Furthermore, Grant wants to leave but is forced to stay because he has nowhere to go,“[he] was not happy in Louisiana, [he] should come to California. After visiting them the summer following, [his] junior year at the university, [he] came back, which pleased my aunt. But [he] had been running in place ever since, unable to accept what used to be [his] life, unable to leave” (82) Grant’s inability to leave causes him emotional pain which leaves him unable to connect to Jefferson. In other words, once Grant is able to relate Jefferson he can finally face his inner

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