What Is The Theme Of Prejudice In A Lesson Before Dying

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A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines takes place in the 1940’s, a time period of segregation. This was a time when blacks were often at fault for a crime they did not commit, such as what transpired in this book. A man named Jefferson was convicted of a crime he did not commit and was insulted during court. Now his family, friends, and even Jefferson himself were trying to prove the white community wrong about their beliefs that a black man is unequal and lacks dignity for both Jefferson and the black community. Not only was Jefferson going through a period of suffering on death row, but others, like Grant Wiggins and Miss Emma, were also facing their struggles as they would attempt to disprove those against them and redeem themselves …show more content…
Jefferson went to court after being accused of a crime. What was stated in court about Jefferson was, “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.” (Gaines 8). This is where the majority of Miss Emma’s sufferings throughout the novel came from. She was upset about this comment herself, however, she was more concerned about how Jefferson felt after hearing it. Miss Emma said, “I want a man to go to that chair, on his own two feet” (Gaines 13). Miss Emma was worried due to the fact that she does not want Jefferson to take to heart what the white people said in court. As stated in Manhood in A Lesson Before Dying by Philip Auger, “The way in which Tante Lou, Miss Emma, and Reverend Ambrose learn to deal with such oppression is through their faith and in the institution of religion” (Auger 77). These three turned to religion to help them find faith in this difficult time. Miss Emma relates to the premise of The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot in the way that people need to give alms, show sympathy, and learn self-control. For these three the only thing to keep them sane and believing that he will die a man is by showing sympathy and giving him the support he needs to become a man. Miss Emma is worried that he will remain the “hog” they called him in court and not die with …show more content…
Grant felt that he would not be able to transform Jefferson into a man when he died and yet he did. The talk he had with Jefferson in Chapter 24, “I want you to show them the difference between what they think you are and what you can be,” enlightened Jefferson and made him ease up on being tenacious. Jefferson was able to overcome his suffering and make a man of himself before he walked to his execution. Grant gave Jefferson a journal before his execution date arrived and in that journal Jefferson wrote “Good by mr. wigin tell them im strong tell them im a man” (Gaines 234). Not only did this mean that Jefferson redeemed himself after what was said about him, but Grant redeemed himself too. Grant felt that he would not be able to change Jefferson into a man when he died, however, he managed to after all. In the process, he also redeemed himself because he proved everyone wrong who told him that this would be a lost cause and that it would be impossible to change someone like Jefferson. Ernest Gaines said “What I tried to do in A Lesson Before Dying was to show the growth of two people, both a student as well as a teacher” ("NEA Big Read: Meet Ernest Gaines"). This showed that not only was this redemption for Jefferson but Grant as well. Another comment stated by Ernest Gaines was “Grant will become a better teacher and remain there to teach, to marry Vivian, and he will teach the children” ("NEA Big

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