Oppression In William Lee's A Lesson Before Dying

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In “A Lesson Before Dying”, there is a tension between how Grant sees himself and how others in his community see him. Grant has gone to a University and is now a teacher in the quarter where he grew up. To his community Grant is the most educated person in the quarter and is constantly being admired by them. Most of the admiration comes from Miss Emma in hopes that Grant can transform Jefferson into a man before he is executed. Miss Emma states, “I want the teacher visit my boy. I want the teacher make him know he’s not a hog, he’s a man” (pg. 20-21) Miss Emma constantly refers to Grant saying “you are the teacher” (pg. 13) putting him in a higher position than everyone else. The community hopes that Grant is the person that can make a change for them, considering that he is the only educated black man. Everyone believed Grant was a great teacher, he however, does not believe he is doing anything to help his community. He is full of doubt and disappointment. Grant thought to himself, “What am I doing? Am I reaching them at all? They are acting exactly as the old men did earlier. They are fifty years younger, maybe more, but doing the same things those old men did who never attended school a day in their lives. Is it just a vicious circle? Am I doing anything?” (pg. 62). Grant does not believe in himself, nor does he think he is a successful teacher. Later on, Paul, a white deputy, recognizes Grant’s ability to positively influence the people around him. Paul states,

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