A young man who returns to s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a crime he didn't commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting. In a small Cajun community in s Louisiana, a young black man is about to go to the electric chair for murder. A white shopkeeper had died during a robbery gone bad; though the young man on trial had not been armed and had not pulled the trigger, in that time and place, there could be no doubt of the verdict or the penalty.
Their individual survivals depend on their mutual support. Although it is Jefferson's story, it is narrated by Grant, with the exception of Chapter 29, in which Jefferson is finally able to tell his story in his own voice, through his diary.
And although Grant has taken on the monumental task of making Jefferson a man, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Grant's fate is inextricably bound to Jefferson's.
In order to help Jefferson "stand," Grant must first come to terms with his own inner demons, which threaten to make him an emotional cripple like his predecessor, Matthew Antoine. In short, the two men must support each other, for neither is able to stand alone. Unlike the conventional hero who thrives on total independence, Grant can be a "hero" only through his interaction with Jefferson, and vice versa.
This approach to the novel focuses on the Afrocentric perspective in which the needs of the individual are sublimated to the needs of the community. Further, although Grant and Jefferson are not blood relatives, they are connected through their common experiences as black males.
Although physically free, Grant lives in a mental prison of his own making created by his hatred of whites, his arrogance, and his detachment from the black community.
As an educated man, he sees himself as superior to people like Jefferson and Rev. Instead of preparing him to contribute to his community, his formal education has taught him to despise his own people. Consequently, he uses his role as a teacher not to inspire and uplift his students but to humiliate and ridicule them, much as his own teacher, Matthew Antoine, humiliated and ridiculed him.
Thus, instead of using his skills and talents to change the cycle of poverty and violence, Grant perpetuates the cycle by failing to challenge the system. Unlike Jefferson, Grant has had numerous opportunities to leave Bayonne and change his life, but he has decided to stay and teach at the plantation school, not because he is a dedicated teacher who cares about his students, but because he feels that as a black man living in a racist white world, he has little or no control over his life.
Unlike Miss Emma, he refuses to challenge the system that keeps him in a state of mental slavery. Instead, he internalizes his rage and vents his pain and frustration on his students.
Because Grant has been exposed to a different lifestyle, he is much more aware of the opportunities denied to him because of his race. Consequently, he is much more likely than Jefferson to strike out at the oppressive white community determined to keep him in his place.
We can surmise that one of the reasons why Grant is reluctant to become involved with Jefferson is that he recognizes the thin barrier that separates him from Jefferson, a fellow black male who has experienced the same type of racism and discrimination. Given Grant's pent-up frustrations, he is much more likely than Jefferson to end up in jail, as illustrated by his fight with the mulatto bricklayers at the Rainbow Club.
Note that without the intercession of Joe Claiborne and Vivian, Grant would likely have been arrested for assault or murder. In a interview, Gaines notes that, according to Booker T. Washington, the newly freed slaves did three things: They left the plantation at least temporarilychanged their names assuming new identitiesand learned to read and write.
Grant has gone through all three stages, but despite his new identity as "professor" and "teacher," he remains mentally enslaved. It is only by acknowledging his kinship with Jefferson and re-establishing his relationship with the black community that he finally achieves his freedom.
Grant is a disillusioned product of the black church. He is insensitive and inconsiderate, as Vivian points out he doesn't consider the impact of his actions on othersand he is immature he doesn't stop to think of the pain that his actions could cause.
He is not prepared for the responsibilities of leadership. He wants freedom without responsibility. Although he sets out to teach Jefferson to "be a man," he has doubts about his own humanity. His feelings towards Jefferson reflect Matthew Antoine's feelings about blacks.
While Antoine feels superior because of his lighter skin color, Grant feels superior because of his education, which, he thinks, puts him in a higher social class.Ernest J.
Gaines’s epic novel, A Lesson Before Dying, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. In , Gaines was appointed Writer-in-Residence at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Book Summary Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List Set in the fictional community of Bayonne, Louisiana, in the late s, A Lesson Before Dying tells the story of Jefferson, a twenty-one-year-old uneducated black field worker wrongfully accused and convicted of the robbery and murder of a white man, and sentenced to death by electrocution.
Oct 29, · A Lesson Before Dying - Ernest J. Gaines The major theme speaks to the destructive nature of fatalism versus the liberating ideals of individualism.
It involves the belief that we can control our lives instead of being controlled by external kaja-net.com: Resolved. Based on Ernest J. Gaines’ National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel, A Lesson Before Dying is set in a small Louisiana Cajun community in the late ’s.
Jefferson, a young illiterate black man, is falsely convicted of murder and is sentenced to death. Action Grant visits Jefferson regularly to teach him dignity before his death; Grant revisits his own situation strong tell them im a man”, Lesson ) Gaines, Ernest J.
A Lesson Before Dying. New York: Vintage Books, Print. Lee, Harper. 'A Lesson Before Dying; by Ernest Gaines tells a wrenching story of death and identity in a small Cajun Louisiana community in the late s.