Of Racism In Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying

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In A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, the story focuses on a community where racism is prominent, creating a racial hierarchy. Black people are supposed to respect white people, and address them with ‘sir’ or ‘mister’. During our first book club discussion, I brought up that at the beginning of the story, Grant seems to be forgetful of the system, as when he was talking to Henri Pichot, a white man, “[Henry Pichot] stared at me, and I realized that I had not answered him in the proper manner. ‘Sir’ I added” (Gaines 21). In the third discussion, we realize that as Grant’s character evolves throughout the story, he eventually does not care about what is expected of him as a black man, “‘Paul’s not here today?’ I asked. He looked at me…show more content…
Jefferson, an innocent young black man, ends up being sentenced to death by electrocution, due to being in the same location when a white man is killed during a shooting. During the trial, Jefferson was looking down and avoided everyone’s gaze when they visited him in jail. This showed how Jefferson was still processing his death was set, due to the racism in the justice system. In our second book club discussion, we agreed that the passage where Grant said, “I don’t know when I’m going to die Jefferson. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe today. That’s why I try to live as well as I can every day and not hurt people” (Gaines 129) further proves that Jefferson has yet to mature into a man. In the second post discussion note, I stated that Jefferson has not grown since he does not understand how to cherish his time with loved ones. As the plot develops, we observe Jefferson’s growth as he gradually opens up and realizes the importance of those around him. During the final moments as Jefferson walks towards the electrocution chair, we can see that his attitude has changed from one labelled as a hog, to a man who stands up to the injustice in the system, “...he looked at the preacher and said, ‘Tell Nannan I walked.’ and straight he walked” (Gaines 254). Contrary from the beginning, while Jefferson walked forward, he faced…show more content…
By being exposed to different types of literature, I have observed they often use empathy to place the readers in each character’s shoes. By doing so, the reader will be able to understand the perspective of each character, as authors want you to. Though their perspectives are different, it is the similarities and comparisons between such that allow the readers to have a better understanding. Often these themes will show a conflict and a resolution; such as a character tolerating the judgement of society, to a resolution where the character accepts that they do not need to pay any heed to the
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