A Lesson Before Dying Review

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The average person makes 35,000 choices a day; that is about thirteen billion per year. Whether it be what you are having for breakfast that morning or what college you decide to go to these choices impact your life in one way or another. The choices we make can either make or break our futures, and that is why we need to be more conscious about them.

However, life is a process of growing and that’s what makes us human. To put this into perspective, in the fictional town of Bayonne, Louisiana, during the late 1940’s, at the peak of racial inequality, one man decides to take on a monumental decision that forever changed his life. In the short term it doesn’t seem to have done him any good, but in the long run some could argue that it was the best thing that ever happened to him. In A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, Jefferson’s decision to follow religion before he dies is important because it changes him forever, by bringing him closer to God and how he understands the world. To begin with, Jefferson, an African American who was falsely accused of murder and is up for execution, starts the novel off as an unbeliever in God. He believes that if God was real, he wouldn’t be in the pitiful situation that he is. However, throughout the story he learns from Grant and Mr. Ambrose more about the world and how there must be a higher power that is in charge.

Jefferson’s unbelief in God can be displayed when Reverend Ambrose and Grant are having a conversation discussing Jefferson’s faith. Grant asks Reverend Ambrose if Jefferson’s soul is lost, and the Reverend responds, “I baptized him. He was ’leven or twelve then. But like so many others, he didn’t keep the faith, either” (Gaines, 101). This supports the idea that Jefferson begins the novel as a lost soul, living in the dark and does not follow the word of God. Despite this, as the story moves on Jefferson realizes the power of God and how dark life really was without him. As time goes by, Jefferson starts to put more faith in religion and is a full on child of God by the end of the novel. We are able to see an example of this during the last chapter of the book in a conversation between Grant and Paul, the deputy. Paul tells Grant that he seen the transformation in Jefferson, but he doesn’t believe that Grant could have ever done it himself. With this, Grant replies by saying, “I didn’t do it…maybe it was God” (Gaines, 254). This attributes to the idea that Jefferson decided to follow religion, because he didn’t want to die a sinner. He wanted to meet God up in that happy world so that he could live again with Miss Emma and Grant, too. Additionally, to Jefferson finding religion before he dies, I also made a monumental decision in my life that brought me closer to God.

I have grown up in a very religious family and have become very connected to God myself, but something that brought me even closer to him, was when I decided to get confirmed my eighth grade year. I chose to be confirmed because I believed that I had come to a full understanding of the word of God and was ready to take on the responsibility of a confirmed member of the church. I remember that day so vividly that I could tell you what everyone was wearing and what songs we sang in church. I can see the moment in my head when I kneeled before my pastor to promise God that I would obey and praise him faithfully until the day I die. After that, I stood up to face the congregation and the feeling that I felt inside was unexplainable. In essence, it was like I had been renewed and purified, like a breath of fresh air. Even though I had been a believer since the day I was born, when I got confirmed I truly had found God, just like Jefferson did before he died.Altogether, the choices that we make, rather big or small, will have an impact upon our futures, either good or bad.

We make so many choices everyday, some without even realizing at the time, but the outcomes we can almost always see. When Jefferson decided to follow religion it completely changed the ending of the story. Now we know that Jefferson’s life did not just end when he died, but he was sent up to heaven to live with God forever. This allows for a much happier and lighter ending to the story rather than the morbid theme that is kept throughout it.


Cite this paper

A Lesson Before Dying Review. (2020, Sep 17). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/a-lesson-before-dying-review/



Is A Lesson Before Dying a good book?
It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The novel is based on the true story of Willie Francis, a young Black American man best known for surviving a failed electrocution in the state of Louisiana in 1946. A Lesson Before Dying. Author Ernest J. Gaines OCLC 438410499 8 more rows
WHAT DOES A Lesson Before Dying Teach You?
This novel teaches the importance of always fighting for what you believe in, no matter how hard life may seem. It also teaches that compassion and love can be found in the darkest of places.
What is A Lesson Before Dying About summary?
The novel is set in the late 1940s in the fictional town of Bayonne, Louisiana, and revolves around the relationships between two men: Jefferson, a twenty-one-year-old uneducated black man who is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit, and Grant Wiggins, a thirty-two-year-old black man who has been educated and has left Bayonne but returns at the request of Jefferson's godmother, Miss Emma Glenn.
What reading level is A Lesson Before Dying?
Lord of the Flies says that civilization is a thin veneer that can be easily removed to reveal the savagery that exists underneath.
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