Symbolism In Ernest J. Gaines A Lesson Before Dying

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Ernest J. Gaines delivers emotional and powerful messages through his novel "A Lesson Before Dying". He speaks of race and injustice in a time where slavery is abolished, but where its victims still suffer as third-class citizens. In doing this, Gaines effectively utilizes multiple stylistic elements that aid to provide deeper meaning and connections. Through the application of similes, imagery and symbolism, a memorable story unfolds. Gaines skillfully uses similes to develop insight throughout the novel. This is displayed when Grant describes Miss Emma in the courtroom, "—his godmother became as immobile as a great stone or as one of our oak or cypress stumps. She never got up once to get water or go to the bathroom" (Gaines 7). This demonstrates…show more content…
As Grant arrives with Aunt Lou and Miss Emma at the Pichot household, he states to her, “It was you who said you never wanted me to go through that back door ever again.” (Gaines 15). Going through the back door is a symbolic reminder of the times of slavery, when slaves were not permitted to enter through the front door. This asserts the importance of meeting with Henri Pichot as the action of entering the back door diminishes in significance. Additionally, the hog is a significant symbol that lies in Jefferson's character. He is first called a hog by his defense attorney during trial, “Justice, gentlemen? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this.” (Gaines 10). The attorney uses this in an attempt to convince the jury that Jefferson is not a man, and due to that, it is not worth killing him. However, the idea of being a hog takes to heart in Jefferson, so much that when offered food in his jail cell, would dehumanize him by eating like a hog would. Furthermore, the use of food and drink symbolizes the character’s affection for each other. Miss Emma brings Jefferson’s favourite foods to him and tries to convince him into eating, “She took a small bite. “You always liked my chicken. Every Sunday.” (Gaines 58). Jefferson’s refusal to eat is taken seriously by Grant and influences him to continuously beg Jefferson to eat for the sake of showing Miss Emma that he loves her. These symbols draw connections and dig deep into every character’s
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