A Tragic Hero In Aristotle's A Lesson Before Dying

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In A Lesson Before Dying, we see Jefferson’s rise from hog to hero, but in what sense is he a hero? Aristotle’s notion of a tragic hero includes many different aspects and qualifications. Jefferson certainly seems to embody many of the characteristics that we often associate with a classic hero, but this analysis will specifically dive into five of the characteristics described by Aristotle in determining a tragic hero. Though Jefferson does not neatly fit into every one of Aristotle’s categories, it is clear by his actions in A Lesson Before Dying that he is in fact a tragic hero. One of the characteristics of a tragic hero, as described by Aristotle, is that the hero should pass from fortune to misfortune due to some mistake or flaw. This…show more content…
Aristotle says that the hero should come to some kind of recognition, passing from ignorance to knowledge. This is displayed in Jefferson’s rise from hog to man. When Grant first visits Jefferson, it is clear that he believes what the court has said about him, that he is a hog. He is silent and indifferent about his impending future. He even tries to eat the food Miss Emma made him out of the bag like a hog. The first breakthrough is when Jefferson finally tells Grant something that he wants. He says he wants a whole gallon of ice cream. The next breakthrough comes when Jefferson decides that he’d like to have a radio. The radio becomes his connection with the outside world. Throughout the story, Jefferson continues making leaps in the right direction until finally, he agrees to write in a journal Grant brings him. He decides to give himself a voice. The journal is the major turning point where Jefferson prepares himself to become a hero. It is clear by the end of the book that he successfully does so by walking tall into the room where he would be put to death by the electric chair with dignity and strength. Jefferson’s final entry in his journal said, “good by mr wigin tell them im strong tell them im a man.” His words speak for themselves. He was a
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