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A Lesson Before Dying, By Ernest J. Gaines

1413 words - 6 pages

While we all would agree that racism is immoral and has no place in a modern society, that was not the case in the U.S. in the 1940s. At the time African Americans were treated as second-class citizens, it was made near-impossible for them to vote, and they were discriminated in many ways including in education, socially and in employment. It was a time in which segregation and racism perforated the laws and society, a time in which African Americans were “separate but equal,” segregation was legal and in full force. Apartheid was also everywhere from the books to in society. Blacks were not truly seen as equal as they were seen the the lesser of the two and it very much felt that way. Blacks were oppressed in many ways including having unreachable requirements to vote, such regulations included literacy tests, poll taxes, and elaborate registration systems, but it only started there.
The novel A Lesson Before Dying is about a young, college-educated man and a convict, Grant Wiggins and Jefferson. Grant is asked to make a man out of Jefferson who is convicted of killing a white man during a robbery in which he got dragged along to. Grant is asked by Emma Lou to make a man out of Jefferson, so if anything, Jefferson can die with dignity. Something that he was striped of when he was tried and his attorney used the defence that he is a hog. While trying to get through to Jefferson, Grant struggles because he is so far and separated from his own community. He holds resentment toward the white man and wants to get away from his town which he thinks is an on-going vicious cycle of misery. The novel A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines depicts the social and racial injustices faced by African Americans in the South in the late 40s. In the story the author highlights the unfair and prejudice treatment received by the black man in the South.
The stance that is taken in the court to criminalize Jefferson is detrimental because they make Jefferson lose his dignity as a man. Jefferson is compared to something that is seen as a rodent, and taking such a stance makes Jefferson lose all the hope that he has. When the defense referred to Jefferson as a boy and not a man, jefferson was being talked down by the side that was supposed to be his own. “This a Man? No, not I. I would all it a boy and a fool” (Gaines 7). Jefferson is being talked to like a boy, a fool. It is implied that he is inexperienced and he didn’t know what he was doing as much as a toddler wouldn’t. While the defense was on his side, it referred to him as a fool because of the color of his skin. The defense is making out Jefferson to be an innocent bystander and in the process making jefferson seem to be a manchild. It is not only making Jefferson seem like he was too idiotic to move out of the way, he is also being dehumanized. “I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this” (Gaines ). When the defense compares Jefferson to a hog, he is saying that Jefferson is...

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