A Lesson Before Dying: Ernest T. Gaines

Updated August 12, 2022

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A Lesson Before Dying: Ernest T. Gaines essay

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Dying was a thought-provoking story, although, the plot line is hardly an unexplored topic. Many readers have come across the same themes and conflicts in works such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or even John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. These messages all have the same underlying moral compass. In all of these books an innocent dies. Often times this makes readers question their ideals. In Of Mice and Men, from an outside source, Lenny would seem guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. However. Anyone who knew the situation as thoroughly as Steinbeck explains in his novel would know Lenny would never kill something out of coldness or lack of feeling. In To Kill a Mockingbird. Evidence is compiled to prove that Tom Robinson is innocent. Regardless, he was killed. Both Lee’s work and Gaines’ work show how cruel the justice system often is to African Americans, which one could argue is not entirely in the past.

The same goes for the situation surrounding the crime Jefferson was convicted of but never committed. A bystander that saw the night of the robbery would’ve seen that Jefferson has no hand in the murder of the shopkeeper. However, when a white man is on the jury, already filled with a deep prejudice for any race but his own, fed lies by lawyers that share the same prejudices, Jefferson doesn’t stand a chance. Characters that surround the innocent in their daily lives can also be thoroughly analyzed. Grant is tasked with the goal to convince Jefferson he is human. As unsuccessful as this might have been starting out, it is evident that in Jefferson’s Diary, the attempt created mutual gains. Jefferson wrote that no one had ever been as good to him as Grant had. It is also shown throughout the story how deeply Jefferson affected Grant’s life. Reaction: I feel that my analysis and reaction may overlap due to the fact that the action of analyzing and reacting are many times quite similar. I feel that A Lesson Before Dying is not unlike many other books that have been required reads in my high school career.

One thing that was very present in Gaines’ story was the frustration that Grant felt while trying to connect with Jefferson. As a reader, I felt how irritated Grant must have been while attempting to convince Jefferson that he was, in fact, human and should treat himself that way as well as expect it from others. With all three of the books assigned, it was hard to connect and put myself in the character’s shoes. Simply for the fact, my life is so radically different. I am a relatively privileged woman with entirely European ancestry that will have higher education and has had strong role models. I especially found it hard to connect to Grant and Jefferson as well as Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart. However, I think it is incredibly important to be exposed to literature that contains subjects so entirely different from my own experiences. It really makes them take a step back and see how fortunate I am for my life situation. Not that I will ever know what it’s like to be a wrongly convicted victim of a crime where the justice system is built to keep me from having just as many rights as others.

Cultural-life Things Fall apart Analysis: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a story that is radically different than any other books out there.  It pushes the boundaries of readers moral compasses although there are many other books that do the same, it doesn’t feel quite the same. Okonkwo is desperate to be everything his father was not. Leading him to make decisions that would get him exiled from his tribe. Okonkwo could not handle the change that came with the passage of time. This is his fatal flaw. Achebe definitely wrote about what he knew. His life was changed by British invasion. Reaction: I really disliked this book. Without the presence of toxic masculinity, there would be practically no plot. Achebe uses Okonkwo as a manifestation of the social construct forced upon him. Okonkwo abuses his wives, doesn’t show his children any affection and uses his father as an excuse for his reactions. I believe that he has the capacity to be a caring person but in his society, if you show emotion you are weak.

Okonkwo kills his adoptive son Ikemefuna because he is told by the prophet that if his adoptive son continues to live he will be weak just like Okonkwo’s father. I am not a fan of justifying sexism. However, I would be ignorant if I didn’t acknowledge the multiple factors in the topic being present. To be accurate to the setting of this book it wouldn’t make sense to have empowered women. But reading the actions and motives Achebe uses to move the plot forward makes my stomach turn. To write a book that millions will read that has toxic social constructs is a bit frustrating. Regardless, it is interesting to learn about the customs, cultural traditions and so on. The characters lives are so radically different from my own life and sphere of influence. Making very hard to connect to what the characters might be feeling or thinking. Chinua Achebe Biographical Information Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe was born November 16, 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria to the Igbo tribe. Eventually British imperialists convinced his parents to abandon their Igbo traditions and become Christian.

Achebe was raised as the fifth of six children. He graduated from University College at Ibadan, Nigeria in 1954. Chinua Achebe felt aggrieved by British writers inaccuracies when it came to his homeland. Wanting to share Nigerian culture with readers he wrote Things Fall Apart in 1959. As a part of the Kennedy Center’s African Odyssey series in 1999, Achebe’s first book was performed in Washington D.C. As a lifelong political advocate, Achebe served as an ambassador for the Biafra people that were attempting to become an independent state from Nigeria. It was also speculated that one of his other works A Man of the People, a story about a crooked nigerian politician, fueled a military takeover as it happened around the same time it was published. While celebrating his sixtieth birthday in 1990 Chinua was involved in a car accident on one of the most dangerous roads in the country, resulting in him being paralyzed from the waist down. In order to receive better medical care Achebe moved back to the U.S. After writing several novels, children’s books and poems, Chinua Achebe died on March 21, 2013, in Boston Massachusetts.

His final resting place is Ogidi, Nigeria. Achebe was survived by his four children Their Eyes Were Watching God Reaction: I felt it was easier to follow and understand this story. Although, I was having difficulty understanding the colloquialisms so I decided to listen to an audiobook while reading this book. The reader was very talented and I think that is why I felt that I was able to connect with it so well. I was fully interested in Janie’s story. Her life was told in such detail and with such feeling, it almost seemed like it could have been Zora Neale Hurston telling me he life story. I enjoy stories that start at the end and are told by the main character as if to explain things. Janie’s struggle to find happiness, freedom and a good life was a thread throughout the entire story. Out of her three marriages she only married one that she didn’t believe would lead her to be happier. She married Logan because her grandmother wanted her to have a secure future.

Although Logan may have been unkind to Janie he was not a necessarily malicious person. When Janie meets Jody Starks he is a visionary. He wants to go to Eatonville and become a big man in a small town. He dreams of being needed and important. He wants Janie to come with him as his bride. She goes with him thinking it will lead to a better, happier life. I loved how strong and confident janie is throughout the book. The ending broke my heart. After all that Janie and Tea Cake had gone through they deserved to die old together in bed. Of course they had no such luck. I felt so bad that janie had to make the decision to kill tea cakes. He brought her so much happiness and light. I completely agree with her decision to save herself and put him out of his misery, but it took a lot of strength to carry out the decision .


  1. Information https://www.biography.com/people/zora-neale-hurston-9347659
  2. http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/zora-neale-hurston
A Lesson Before Dying: Ernest T. Gaines essay

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Is A Lesson Before Dying a true story?
Although it is a work of fiction, it is said to be loosely based on the true story of Willie Francis , a young black man sentenced to death by electrocution in 1945 and again, by a gruesome turn of events, in 1947. Set in the fictional community Bayonne, La.
What is Gaines primary message in the novel?
Gaines confronts the societal contribution of racism and discrimination in the lives of African Americans , specifically in regards to young Jefferson, who is convicted of a crime he did not commit.
What is the lesson before dying about?
Set in the fictional community of Bayonne, Louisiana, in the late 1940s, A Lesson Before Dying tells the story of Jefferson, a twenty-one-year-old uneducated black field worker wrongfully accused and convicted of the robbery and murder of a white man, and sentenced to death by electrocution.
What is the most important lesson to learn before dying?
The most important lesson that everyone should follow and apply to everyday life is “ never give up ”. In the novel, “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines, the important lesson can be shown in the characters Jefferson, Miss Emma and Grant Wiggins. Firstly, Jefferson is an example of a person who never gave up.
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