Lesson Before Dying Themes

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A Lesson Before Dying written by Ernest Gaines is set in a small town called Bayonne, Louisiana. Lesson Before Dying was written in the late 1940s around the period when segregation was taking place, where people were treated based on the color of their skin. Jefferson, a poor young black man, was a part of a liquor store shootout where three men were killed; the only one who survived, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, a school teacher, has been asked to persuade Jefferson into feeling like a human. Despite the fact that Jefferson’s execution date was set, Grant has to go through many complications to make a hog into a human again. There are a lot of themes in the book and one of them revolves around Jefferson…show more content…
“Food can enliven social relations, enrich spiritual affairs, and enhance an individual’s sense of well-being, it can be used to threaten, reward, cajole, or punish and in other ways manipulate behavior” (Ramsay). Miss Emma, Tante Lou and Grant visit Henri Pichot to ask if he would be able to make Jefferson into a man before he gets into that chair. On the way back, Grant and Tante Lou get into fight and instead of staying for her cooking he rejects it to eat in town. She felt hurt when he turned down the offered food. “By rejecting food, one also rejects the person offering it” (Ramsay). This was also the case when Jefferson rejected Miss Emma’s food whenever Grant brought it to visit him. “Food in its acquisition and its preparation provides nourishment and a means by which love is expressed” (Ramsay). When Grant first started going to visit Jefferson, Miss Emma made him a home cooked meal. Miss Emma felt as if, since she couldn’t make Jefferson feel like a man again by talking to him, she could by cooking for him. Food symbolizes the love that Miss Emma has for Jefferson to show him how much she cares about him to make him feel like a human
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