The Lessons Learnt in “A Lesson Before Dying”

Categories: A Lesson Before Dying
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A young African-American boy Jefferson, in the novel A Lesson Before Dying, is convicted of murder and sentenced to death, during a period when blacks were discriminated against because of their color. During his trial, his attorney compares him to an uneducated hog, a stereotype that Jefferson himself begins to believe and even act like. In Ernest J. Gaines’ novel, the narrator Grant Wiggins is asked and agrees, to instill pride and self-worth in Jefferson before his execution. The novel convinces the reader that the words of others can make anyone act or feel the way they are treated.

It takes a true friend to rebuild their confidence.

In Gaines’ novel, Grant agrees to help Jefferson, proving those you trust can make you strong again.` “I want you to show them that you are such a man more a man than they can ever be” (Gaines 192). This is a statement Grant made to Jefferson, asking him to show those who treat him badly that they are wrong with the stereotype they have of him.

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Grant is not able to stop Jefferson’s death sentence, but he does help Jefferson define heroism by preparing him to die with dignity and gain respect from a community that has disrespected him.

“A hero does for others. He would do anything for people he loves because he knows it would make their lives better. I am not that kind of person, but I want you to be. You could give something to her, to me, to those children in the quarter.

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You could give something I never could … The white people out there are saying you don’t have it—that you’re a hog, not a man. But I know they are wrong. You have the potentials. We all have, no matter who we are” (Gaines 191).

This was Grant’s message to Jefferson to convince him he can be a hero by proving he is a man.

Grant’s decision to help Jefferson shows the strong friendship they have. I myself can relate to Grant. I have a close friend, who in the past, was picked on, called names, and basically bullied. The hard part for me was, those doing the bullying were also my friends. I decided to isolate myself from those friends and convinced my friend to do the same. The others soon realized it was bothering me, so they stopped. Once they stopped, they apologized to him and his family. His family knew about this also, and they reacted by inviting all of us to come to their house. His family thanked them for apologizing by throwing a pizza party and watching a movie in their home. To this day, they have been better friends to him and we all are part of the same friend group again. I helped him realize he was a stronger person than them. By

ignoring the comments and actions, my group of friends no longer enjoyed picking on him. My friend won. He proved he was a stronger person. Just like Grant in the novel, I became a stronger person as well. Like Grant, I realized I too can gain someone’s trust, by allowing them to confide in me. Eventually, Grant saw Jefferson smile and Jefferson’s writings in his notebook showed Grant he was appreciated and trusted. I saw that same smile from my friend. It was then I knew I had helped him through a tough situation in his life. Showing again, a friend can rebuild another’s confidence.

To sum up my connection with this novel, being there for others and building their confidence has been a rewarding experience for me. Reading A Lesson Before Dying, made me really think about the choices people make and how others react to the choices. Grant really did not care about Jefferson at the beginning of the story but was encouraged to help him. This made me think of those I really don’t know, but may need my help. The story made me open my eyes and realize we need to care for everyone, not just those we know well.

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The Lessons Learnt in “A Lesson Before Dying”. (2020, Oct 01). Retrieved from

The Lessons Learnt in “A Lesson Before Dying”

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