"A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines

Categories: A Lesson Before Dying

This morning I woke up at 6:30 a.m., ate a granola bar, brushed my teeth, got dressed, and headed out the door for school. Just in the thirty minutes I was awake, I made a lot of choices. We make choices every single day from the smaller ones like deciding what clothes we wear to the bigger choices like choosing what college to attend. We may not realize it, but choices play a major impact on our lives and the lives of others.

In the novel A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, which follows an African American named Grant who is forced by his aunt to teach Jefferson, a man on death row, how to be a man. One of the most important decisions is Grant choosing to continuously see Jefferson, even though he does not want to. This choice plays a crucial role in the development of Grant and Jefferson’s character.

Grant’s choice of continuing to teach Jefferson and turn him into a ‘man’ really changes him and Jefferson for the better.

It really impacted the life of Grant because in the beginning of the novel, Grant wanted nothing to do with Jefferson. Grant thought his aunt and Miss Emma were forcing him to go to jail and talk to Jefferson. He thought nothing would change in his town, and he would not be able to reach anyone, they would all be murdered. Throughout the novel, we witness a transformation of Grant’s thoughts and his relationship with Jefferson.

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None of this would have happened if Grant would have given up and stopped seeing Jefferson. Grant develops this sort of friendship with Jefferson so much so where Grant begins to buy Jefferson gifts: a radio, notebook, pencil, a mix of nuts. Grant played a major role in helping Jefferson live the rest of his life to the fullest. The transformation of Jefferson went from not even speaking a word in his cell to, ‘He was the strongest man in that crowded room, Grant Wiggins.’ (Gaines 253) This quote was said by the sheriff deputy after Jefferson’s execution. It was during this moment that Grant became aware of how much of an impact he played into during Jefferson’s last few months of life.

Jefferson went from a ‘hog’ into a man. Grant also knows the type of person he has become because of Jefferson. He realized the impact he had on that man who sat in the electric chair, and the impact that same man had on him. Grant knows how he can change someone’s life, he has that power because he just did it to Jefferson. At the end of the novel we see a part of Grant we never saw before where he just got the news of the execution, and he goes back to teach. ‘I went up to my desk and turned to face them. I was crying.’ (Gaines 256) Grant developed such a strong connection with Jefferson to the point where his death brought him to tears. Jefferson made Grant a better man and vise versa. This would not of happened if Grant would of ditched Jefferson in the beginning.

One of the biggest choices I have made in my life was about three months ago. I was presented with the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Clendenin, West Virginia. The town of Clendenin was hit with a major flood by one the rivers that cuts the town in half, the Elk River. I was unsure if this was something I wanted to partake in considering that I would have to raise six hundred dollars in order to attend. After about a week of going back and forth in my head I decided that this was something I wanted to experience, and I am glad I did. When I first arrived in Clendenin, the air smelled like water that had been sitting in the sun for too long. Everywhere I looked, I saw motor homes, damaged roads, water streaks on buildings that had been abandoned, and a lot of homelessness.

I worked five days building an addition to a lady’s home, who hoped to make it a room for a new foster kid she would host. Laying forty pound blocks, cutting planks of wood, and mixing concrete by hand made me realize a lot, especially about my character. I am extremely blessed, for the things I have, even the small things we take for granted, like family. This trip also made me come to the conclusion of how important it is to love one another and to help each other. There were times on the trip, I was so tired from the night before that I had no motivation to go back to work, but I persevered and did it.

The trip helped develop my character, this would not have happened if I would have made the decision not to go. Just like Grant, both of our choices helped shape us into the person we are today. Grant became a more sympathetic and realized he can make a difference in someone’s life, and I became more grateful, developed more perserence, and loving. Choices will do that to each and everyone of us.

To conclude, the choices we make affect our maturity and growth throughout our lifetime. This is especially evident in the novel A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, when Grant chooses to continue seeing Jefferson. Grant learned that he does have the power to change someone’s life, and it overall taught him a lesson on caring about others. Meanwhile, Grant’s decision also affected Jefferson who learned how to live his last days to the fullest, and what it meant to be a man.

I have experienced this growth myself when I went on my first ever mission trip in West Virginia. I learned what it truly means to be grateful, and I applied it to how I act everyday. Go out into the world and make your own choices. One decision can change you and leave a mark on a person’s life! The choice may not be to resume with visiting someone in prison, but whatever choice you select, it will play a crucial role in who you become.

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"A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines. (2020, May 06). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/a-lesson-before-dying-by-ernest-j-gaines-essay

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