Racial Bigotry In Ernest J. Gaines A Lesson Before Dying

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The novel A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines contains a powerful story of racial bigotry in the southern United States. After being found at the scene of a robbery turned murder, a young black man named Jefferson is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. Jefferson’s godmother, Miss Emma Glenn, asks the teacher, Grant Wiggins, to teach Jefferson how to die like a man. Ernest J. Gaines uses motifs such as constructive lying, small displays of power, and Christian imagery in his novel, A Lesson Before Dying. One motif in Gaines’ novel is constructive lying. A simple example of this is how Grant does not tell the truth about Jefferson’s behavior in jail. When Jefferson’s godmother is not there he is harsh with his words and actions. Jefferson acts like and repeatedly calls himself a hog, just as the white men did in court. He does everything he can to make Grant feel guilty. Grant knows that if Miss Emma found out what Jefferson did that day it would break her heart. He decides to lie in order to spare Miss …show more content…

Throughout the novel, there are countless similarities between the life and death of Jefferson and Jesus. One of these examples is that both men are wrongly convicted of a crime and given the death sentence. Grant tells the story of the robbery and makes it very clear that Jefferson is only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jefferson says, “Brother shot you. It wasn’t me. They made me come with them. You got to tell the law that Mr. Gropé.” (6). Unfortunately for Jefferson, Mr. Gropé dies. Jefferson goes to trial and is quickly found guilty: “A white man had been killed during a robbery, and though two of the robbers had been killed on the spot, one had been captured, and he, too would have to die” (4). Jesus was also found guilty very quickly by the political and religious leaders of his

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