Lesson Before Dying
Ernest J. Gaines
Before you read...
Set in a rural black community in the late 1940’s, an unwilling shoot-out in a liquor store occurs and Jefferson, the only survivor, is accused of the disastrous murder. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Jefferson is sentenced to death on an electric chair after the prosecutor indicted him of just being a skull with no plans or future.
An educated teacher, Grant Wiggins, is encouraged by his aunt and Jefferson’s godmother, Mrs. Emma, to help Jefferson die like a man. Their only wish is that he dies with pride and dignity. Grant struggles between his own personal life and his struggles with teaching an ignorant man to let go of his cold, bitter heart. One man's struggle to accept death with self-respect is counterbalanced with the other man’s struggle with finding himself in an uptight community.
Do you believe that every man in this world has the desire to die with dignity?
setting of the novel:
"A hero is someone who does something for other people. He does something that other men don't and can't do. He is different from other men. He is above other men. No matter who those mean are, the hero, no matter who he is, is above them" (191).
My love for this book
There is no doubt that Ernest J. Gaines reaches out to the reader with the heart wrenching thought of discovering one’s own pride before dying. The narrator’s resolute tone dignifies the sentimental meaning behind Jefferson’s death. Gaine’s majestic way of expressing the two internal struggles made the lesson of having dignity so much more valuable and significant.
The author proves his point in selection of setting and complexity of his themes. The development and progress of the main characters are so realistic and relatable, making the book irresistible. I could not force myself to put the book down because I was encouraged to read and learn more about humanity, while also reading about Jefferson’s case. The development and progress of the main characters encouraged me to look at my own actions and determine my path of life. For being such a short book, the numerous amounts of beneficial lessons are unbelievable.