A Lesson Before Dying Analysis

Words: 575
Pages: 3

Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying follows a schoolteacher named Grant Wiggins who has been asked to meet with a man, Jefferson, on Death Row. Jefferson, a black man, has been called a “hog” by the white court, so his mother wishes for Grant to educate her son. While the clear racial text is evident from the summary, the story also tells a conflict between reason and honor. The story takes place in Louisiana during the ‘60s. This is during a time when African-Americans still suffered oppression and racism, especially in law and education. Grant, an African-American, is very educated compared to the community that he was raised in. Although he is of course upset with the discrimination of the time, particularly when comparing the colored school that he teaches in and more privileged white schools, Grant does not want to fight back. In the face of his oppressors, the most he does is “smile and refuse to act like the uneducated black man they think he is” (Page 48). Between his job, his love life, and his family, Grant is already burdened and does not wish to cause more trouble for himself. He only took up Jefferson’s case because his aunt pushed him to, not so he could prove a point. Grant is thus the middle ground, but the issue revolves around him. The story is told through Grant’s point of view, but instead of …show more content…
On the one hand, Grant’s aunt and girlfriend encourage him to go through with meeting Jefferson for honor. On the other hand, the sheriff and Jefferson’s attorney point out that speaking to Jefferson may be pointless and amoral. Rather than an easily-won battle, both sides make valid arguments. As such, the text does not seem to have a specific audience in mind, but it does reach to readers old enough to understand that the conflict of the story is real and that neither side may be