A Lesson Before Dying, By Ernest Gaines

1097 words - 4 pages

“I never found myself needing that piece of paper,” is a remark actor Johnny Depp made back in 2010 about his relationship with longtime partner Vanessa Paradis. Depp and Paradis have been in a relationship since 1998 and have two children together, Lily Rose and Jack. Another member of Hollywood’s elite, Latin singer Shakira, shares a similar view saying that marriage is like a contract, and that is unromantic. However, celebrities living like Shakira and Depp are also committing fornication and already view themselves as being married; the marriage is just not official. This draws comparisons to Ernest Gaines’ novel 'A Lesson Before Dying'. Two of the novel’s main characters, Grant and Vivian, have sex outside of marriage because they cannot be married since Vivian is still legally married to another man (Gaines 29). Even though of Vivian’s situation differs slightly from that of Depp’s, the act is still the same. These adults are conducting the act of sex outside of marriage; they are either ignoring what their religion teaches on the subject or do not care what religion has to say.
At various points in the novel, Grant's religion is brought up especially when Reverend Ambrose lets it be known how concerned he and Miss Emma are for Jefferson's soul (Gaines 181-3). Though Tante Lou raised Grant in the church Grant left Christianity after going to the university and does not teach Jefferson about Heaven and Hell (Gaines 101-2). Because of his lack of religion, Grant says he does not know a thing about God and it reflects in his outlook on things in life (Gaines 182). Grant does not see why Reverend Ambrose, Tante Lou, and Miss Emma have such a problem with the “sin box” Grant bought for Jefferson because Grant figures that since Jefferson only “five more Fridays and a half” he just needs company and not necessarily God's (Gaines 181). The Reverend feels the need to minister to Jefferson so he, Miss Emma, and Tante Lou can have peace of mind knowing Jefferson is waiting for them in Heaven. The Reverend cannot do that through the “wall of sin” from the radio He is continuously nervous that because Grant is not teaching Jefferson about God and Heaven that Grant is sending Jefferson's “soul to hell” (Gaines 183, 215). Despite Grant's lack of believing in Heaven, he begins to talk to Jefferson about prayer which reconfirms what Grant said earlier on in the book on page 214 that he believes in God (Gaines 221-2). At the end of the novel, Grant seems to be somewhat conscious of what he has talked to Jefferson about and, though he says he does not believe in Heaven, hopes he has done nothing to sway Jefferson from Christianity (Gaines 249).
In the book, Vivian professes to be a Catholic and attends Catholic Mass every Sunday (Gaines 114). Religion appears to be important to her, using the phrase “if I had to, then I suppose I would” in response to Tante Lou's question if Vivian would leave the church for Grant (Gaines 114). However, she also says she...

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