A Lesson Before Dying: an Examination of a Prodigious Storyteller

965 Words Jan 8th, 2013 4 Pages
A Lesson Before Dying: An Examination of a Prodigious Storyteller
A good novel entertains the reader. An excellent novel entertains and enlightens the reader. Set in a Cajun community in the late 1940’s, A Lesson Before Dying is a heart-warming tale of injustice, acceptance and redemption. A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest J. Gaines is an excellent novel. Not only does Gaines inform the reader, he entertains will his effective storytelling. His use of symbolism, voice and stylistic devices keeps the reader enticed to the very last page.
One way Gaines is an effective storyteller is his use of symbolism. The first symbol to present itself in A Lesson Before Dying is the hog. During trial for robbery and first degree murder, Jefferson’s
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The final symbol in A Lesson Before Dying is the notebook. After many attempts to reach Jefferson—from Grant, Miss Emma and Reverend Amborse, Grant gives him a notebook to write his thoughts in. In this notebook, Jefferson reflects upon life and death. He writes to Grant about all the injustices he has faced—saying "it look like the lord just work for wite folks" (Gaines 227) and the his impending fate. The notebook represents Jefferson’s acceptance of his unjust life and his newfound sense of self-worth. In addition, the notebook also shows the bond which formed between Grant and Jefferson. By writing to Grant, he finally accepted Grant’s guidance and showed that Grant made a difference in his short life. As seen through these examples, Gaines uses many symbols to effectively tell his story.
The second reason Gaines is an effective story-teller, is his utilization of voice. Most of a Lesson Before Dying is conveyed through stream of consciousness. Narrated by Grant Wiggins, much of the novel is dedicated to Grant’s internal monologue:
“What am I doing? Am I reaching them at all? They are acting exactly as the old men did earlier. They are fifty year younger, maybe more, but doing the same thing those old men who never attended school a day in their lives. Is it just a vicious circle? Am I doing anything?” (Gaines 62)
Another way Gaines utilizes voice is through his use of Cajun dialect. Rather than having the dialogue written in

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