The Importance Of Hope In Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying

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The most life- changing invention differs from person to person. Some might argue the most life- changing invention is the telephone, while others might argue it is the invention of vehicles. For me, it is the invention of the light bulb. Due to the invention of the light bulb, people have access to light whenever they desire, and they have no need to rely on the sunshine. Needless to say, this invention has changed everybody’s lives and light has became known as a beacon of hope in our society today. Hope is connotated as a positive thing that can influence how people think and act. People can also act as a beacon of hope too. In A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, hope is a rare thing in their society. By characterizing Grant as a …show more content…
After Jefferson has been wrongly accused of a crime that he has never done, Grant is given the task of turning Jefferson from a “hog” to a “man.” At first, Grant did not want to, but due to his aunt’s and Jefferson’s godmother’s persuasion, he realizes that he has to at least try. During Grant’s first visit to the jail, Jefferson keeps on reiterating the sole fact that he is a hog and how hogs would do or not to certain things. For example, Jefferson states, “That’s what hogs eat…” and “Hog’s don’t eat no candy…” (Gaines 83). It is obvious what his defendant has commented about Jefferson is implanted in his mind. The “hog” mentality consumes Jefferson’s judgement and is the only thing he can think of. No matter how much Grant tries to convince him otherwise, Jefferson is adamant that he is a “hog.” Moreover, when Jefferson’s godmother visits, he refuses to eat any food, in turn hurting his godmother’s feelings. Jefferson is characterized as desolate and withdrawn from society. It seems as if nothing could change how he thinks about himself and others. However, visits after visits, Jefferson seems to be changing. During one of his visits, Grant gifts to Jefferson a radio to keep him company. Grant finds out later that Jefferson does not ever turn off the radio, and always listens to the music playing. He also convinces Jefferson to eat some of his godmother’s gumbo …show more content…
The relationship between the children and Grant is quite unique. Whenever Grant disapproves of what his students are doing, he hits them harshly. One time, he even “slashed [a student] hard across the butt with the Westcott ruler” (Gaines 35). This is clearly not the norm for today’s society, but it was the norm around the 1940’s. Using violence to solve a student’s behaviour can affect how a student behaves in a negative way. By perceiving the way a student stutters in the presence of Grant, readers can infer that the students’ behaviour is already being affected as a result from the fear of the teacher. Teachers are supposed to impact students’ lives by helping them grow as individuals. Therefore, Grant’s method of helping students grow as individuals is not very effective. Students are more frightened of the Grant, rather than accepting of him. While Grant does strike out at his students, he feels sympathetic towards them because he realizes the he is their only hope. No other school would accept black students in them because of the segregation happening in that time period. Also, because Grant is one of the few educated black men there is, he is the students’ only chance of receiving a good education. He realizes that "they see [him]- and [he] who grew up on the same plantation, can teach reading, writing, and arithmetic" (Gaines 167). This is something that no male figure in the

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