Bringing Out The U And I In Community

1052 words - 5 pages

In Ernest J. Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying we meet a man by the name of Grant Wiggins. Grant is an elementary school teacher in his mid-twenties. He is educated, selfish and depressed. Grant struggles to manage in the racist white society, which has made him bitter. He had no faith in himself, his community, or his religion. He didn’t believe that things will get better and thinks escape is the only option. Through the hard lessons of selflessness we see Grant transform from a pessimistic, hopeless, and insensitive man into a more selfless and compassionate human being.
Grant is more educated than most of the people, black or white, in the region. However, he feels oppressed in the South ...view middle of the document...

One of his responsibilities is “to keep the others from ending up like” Jefferson by teaching the students, but he lacks respect for them (Gaines 14).
Rather than facing his own conflicts, Grant tends to flee from his troubles. Like several Americans’, Grant drank as a means of escape. Along with alcohol he uses his girlfriend, Vivian, to escape the conflict within himself. He is always trying to convince her to pack up and start a new life elsewhere. Vivian always seems to remind him that they are “teachers and [they] have a commitment” to the children (Gaines 29). Grant seems to have a deeper root to the South then he believes he does. Grant’s selfishness makes him question “commitment to what – to live and die in this hellhole, when we can leave and live like other people”(Gaines 29)?
It took constant pressure from Grant’s Aunt to make him meet with Jefferson. His pessimistic attitude prevented him from seeing the changes that were beginning to take place in Jefferson. As he continues to visit Jefferson, the two of them bond. We see a different side of Grant with an emotional side towards Jefferson. Grant starts to care for someone beside himself and asking more personal questions such as, “How are you?” “You need anything?” (Gaines169). Grant’s conflict within himself continues though because now he doubts his influence on Jefferson. He clearly sees a change but he wonders if it was just because he had requested an entire bucket of ice cream for his last meal.
Grant expresses a lot of emotion on one special visit with Jefferson. He brings him pecans and other nuts the school children collected for him. Jefferson mutters, “tell-tell the chirren thank you for the pe-pecans” (Gaines 186). Grant smiles from ear to ear and felt like crying. He relates his happiness to someone who has just found religion. Grant’s studies became more important than church so he stopped attending in college. His joy from teaching fulfills his loss of...

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