The novel A Lesson Before Dying hits the ground running right from the very first sentence, of the very first paragraph, of the very first page. Ernest Gaines character, Jefferson, a young black and recently ex-water boy for his 1940s Louisiana community, is on trial for a crime he did not commit. With the racial mindset of the south during that time, it wasn’t hard for anybody to see where this was going. All the white jury had to do was glance at him before they had their minds made up. Yet his white lawyer tries an angle which only proves to be futile in the courtroom but completely shatters every ounce of Jefferson’s soul. His attorney publicly calls him a hog, and asks the court to see that he’s an animal which lacks the intellect needed to pull off the robbery and murder he was falsely accused of. This occurrence marks the beginning of Jefferson’s living death and paves the beginning of what’s to be a long and arduous road for both him and Grant Wiggin’s. On this road, many lessons are learned and exchanged.
Grant Wiggins is the African-Americans teacher in the same community. He is sent by his aunt, Tante Lou, and Jefferson’s godmother, Miss Emma, to salvage Jefferson back from the hog he’d been told and even come to believe that he was. All of this so that he may die a man. For the first handful of visits to the jail, Grant’s frustration and defeat grows and grows. It seems as though little to no progress is being made at all and this continues up until both Grant and Jefferson finally hit rock bottom, together. Now they have nowhere to go but up, and up they soar. The lessons begin to flow like a summer’s breeze. They both continuously learn much from each other from this point on.
A major breakthrough with Jefferson begins developing with a diary given to him my Grant. Having a freedom in a place where freedoms are the rarest was an extremely empowering tool. “By substituting a choice to speak with an opportunity to engage in...