A Lesson Before Dying 'And Devil In A Blue Dress'

1859 Words8 Pages
Try to think from a different perspective, try to imagine a life other than one’s own, try to achieve the impossible. The process of understanding life from a different perspective provides one of the greatest challenges; however, if one can accomplish the feat one is equipped with empathy, compassion, and an integrity that will carry them towards a successful life. Therefore, becoming a connoisseur of literature that forces the broadening of one’s horizons is an imperative step to appreciating and exploring one’s situation. Three works of writing that deeply delve into the lives of African Americans during the period approaching and succeeding the Civil Rights Movement are A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, Devil in a Blue Dress by…show more content…
The overarching theme and lesson present in each text is responsibility and the lengths one is obligated or feels obligated to pursue to fulfill the engagements they are assigned. In A Lesson Before Dying, Grant is given the unpleasant task of connecting with a young man destined for death; yet, he continues the work because he feels a sense of duty if not for Jefferson, the accused murderer, then for his aunt and Jefferson’s Nannan. In an attempt to finally connect with the unreachable Jefferson, Grant speaks to Jefferson about his responsibility to himself and the entire African American population to stand tall and act like a ‘man’ while walking to his demise to prove that the white man was wrong about him. Grant states, “A hero does for others. He would do anything for people he loves, because he knows it would make their lives better. I am not that kind of person, but I want you to be. You could give something to her, to me, to those children in the quarter. You could give something I never could …” (191) Eventually, by the conclusion of the novel, both Grant and Jefferson come to realize and achieve their personal responsibilities, and although at times the tasks were difficult, in the end, they learned from their experiences. Moreover, in the story Devil in a Blue Dress,…show more content…
Subsequently, the characters in these literary works must endure harsh and hurtful interpretations of human dignity due to their social climates. As seen in the very beginning of A Lesson Before Dying, racism was still a major issue that frequently weighed in on a black’s life. Sadly, black people were treated negatively during the 1940s and were even still considered no better than animals. Gaines utilizes this metaphor in the story and then weaves the adverse impacts of the statement throughout the rest of the story. During Jefferson 's trial, his defense attorney stated, “What justice would there be to take this life? Justice, gentlemen? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this.” (8) From this unkind statement, Jefferson comes to see himself as nothing more than a hog and sets into effect the chain of events told in the book. A similar treatment of human dignity can be seen in Devil in a Blue Dress, once more Mosley uses an animal analogy to display the maltreatment of African Americans. Easy feels great unjust when visiting with the rich Mr. Carter because he states of his experience, “Mr. Carter was so rich that he didn 't even consider me in human terms. He could tell me anything. I could have been a prized dog that he knelt to and hugged when he felt low. It was the worst kind of racism. The fact that he didn 't even recognize the difference showed that he didn 't care one damn about me.” 166 Additionally, in this work Mosley, employs
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