What Is The Theme In A Lesson Before Dying

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When skimming through the pages of Ernest J. Gaines’s literary masterpiece, “A Lesson Before Dying,” one will come across various themes throughout the course of the novel, the most prominent being worth. The dictionaries definition of worth is along the lines of value, this value being focused on a black man named Jefferson, a young man on trial for the murder of a white man, a murder which by no means did he commit. A man who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, his own life being the price to pay. Segregation plays a huge role on the small town of Bayonne Louisiana. In a place where, as the main character Grant puts it: “White people believe that they’re better than anyone else on earth.” (Gaines, p.192) After being defined …show more content…
In the early chapters of the novel Grant Wiggins, a schoolteacher is able to note the details of his student’s home life and their families, implying the sense of a coloured community. Upon his godmother’s wish of making her godson a man before his death, Grant is reluctant, but eventually feels pressured into completing this task. His first breakthrough comes in the form of Jefferson’s request of a radio. He wants to purchase this radio as quickly as possible, but is having a bit of difficulty coming up with twenty dollars to make said purchase. This brings the reader to the Rainbow Club, which serves as a café and bar to the black community. Claiborne and Thelma, the clubs owners, give Grant some of their hard earned money for Jefferson’s cause, with Thelma stating: “I ain’t in no hurry.” (Gaines, p.174) This occurs after Grant insists he will pay her back the ten dollars she has given him the next day. Overall it is clear to see a sense of trust in a well-connected coloured community. This community is willing to put both their time and money to convince Jefferson that he is to die a worthy man, highlighting the importance of this community within the setting to the overall theme of the …show more content…
As Jefferson awaits his execution, the head of said community, Reverend Ambrose, is inclined to prepare Jefferson on his journey to heaven. Unlike the vast majority of the coloured community, Jefferson has been slacking on the faith. In his journal he writes: “it look like the lord just work for wite folks.” (Gaines, p. 227) The Reverend fears, Grant, another slacker of the faith, who also happens to not believe in heaven, is going to convert Jefferson into a sinner as he waits on God’s doorstep. While the Reverend is focused on preparing Jefferson for God, Grant looks to fulfill Jefferson’s own wishes. This conflict between wishes and religion is a key to the novel, due to the fact that both are needed to work together if Jefferson is able to fulfill his worthiness as a man. In the end Jefferson is able to walk to God as his godmother so dearly wished. Without this religious setting, that balance of Jefferson’s wishes and his journey to God may not have earned him the title of a worthy

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