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Literature & Language
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A Lesson Before Dying Literature & Language Essay Paper (Essay Sample)


discuss the various themes espoused by the author in the article "a lesson before dying " Ernest J. Gaines.


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A Lesson Before Dying
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines is a tragedy that takes place in a small plantation community known as Bayonne, Louisiana. The events are nestled between two important eras in the United States’ history. The American Civil War leading to the Reconstruction had just ended prior to the 1940’s, but African Americans faced humiliation due to the Jim Crow laws that led to class segregation based on ethnicity. Nevertheless, the 1950’s era of struggle for African Americans to be truly free and enjoy equal rights with their white counterparts had not yet commenced. Gaines tragedy takes place in the 1940’s when African American used to work on plantation where their forefathers worked as slaves, although they were paid for their labor unlike their ancestors. Nonetheless, the wages that they received were little compared to their white employers, who enjoyed state benefits without any restrictions. Throughout the novel, the themes of racial injustice and the inequity of the United States’ justice system are brought out clearly by the actors. This paper will explore these themes through the characters of Grant Wiggins, Henri Pichot, the Jury, and Sam Guidry, and Dr. Joseph. Compelling evidence will be provided using exact, forceful, and persuasive word choices that are vivid, concrete, and specific to show how the themes are manifested in the novel.
Gaines novel is laced with several incidents that bring out the theme of racial injustice. The opening sentence sets the stage for the reader to understand just how much African Americans suffered racial injustice at the hands of their male counterparts. Grant Wiggins begins the tragedy by stating, “I WAS NOT THERE, yet I was there. No, I did not go to the trial, I did not hear the verdict, because I knew all the time what it would be” (Gaines 7). Concerning Grant’s opening statement, David E. Magill observes, “But for Grant Wiggins, this statement does not signify his transcendence; instead, it references the historical conditions that have oppressed him and his race” (Magill 62). Grant did not see the need to attend the court session because regardless of the defense put up by the public attorney, the all-white men jury was going to find Jefferson guilty of an offence he did not commit. He was not given the benefit of doubt despite his lawyer’s attempt to portray him as a thing and a pig that lacked the capacity to intelligently plan and execute a murder. To the defense attorney, Jefferson was just but “a cornered animal to strike quickly out of fear, a trait inherited from his ancestors in the deepest jungle of blackest Africa” (Gaines 9). For this reason, African Americans faced racial injustice since they were considered to be of lesser value only comparable to hogs that were fattened for the slaughter.

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