A Lesson Before Dying
In the novel A Lesson Before Dying, Grant and Jefferson are black men in the era of a racist society; but they have struggles with a greater dilemma, obligation and commitment. They have obligations to their families and to the town they are part of. They lived in a town were everybody knew everybody else and took care of each other. "Living and teaching on a plantation, you got to know the occupants of every house, and you knew who was home and who was not.... I could look at the smoke rising from each chimney or I could look at the rusted tin roof of each house, and I could tell the lives that went on in each one of them." [pp. 37-38] Just by Grant’s words you can tell that that is a community that is very devoted to each other.
It was a little bit harder for Jefferson to remember his commitment to his nannan and to the town. He had been charged with a crime he did not commit and didn’t know how to deal with it. They were asking a lot from a man who knew he was going to die soon."Me, Mr. Wiggins. Me. Me to take the cross. Your cross, nannan's cross, my own cross. Me, Mr. Wiggins. This old stumbling nigger. Y'all axe a lot, Mr. Wiggins." [p. 224] It takes a strong man to forget about yourself and do something for someone else when your in the position that Jefferson is in. It took a while; but Jefferson did what had to be done, in the end.
Grant's task is to affirm that Jefferson is not a hog, but a man. The mission is doubly difficult because Grant isn't sure he knows what a man is. Besides not knowing what a man is, Grant doesn’t feel that he, a well educated man, should have to go and make Jefferson believe that he is not a hog; which shows the amount of arrogance Grant has about himself. Even in the courtroom Grant wasn’t even paying attention to what was going on. "I was not there, yet I was there." [p. 3: the first sentence of the novel] He doesn’t want to do it and holds his aunt responsible for helping to humiliate him. "Everything you sent me to school for, you're stripping me of it,' I told my aunt.... `The humiliation I had to go through, going into that man's kitchen.... Now going up to that jail.... Anything to humiliate me....