A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest J. Gaines

September 30, 2011
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A Lesson Before Dying

The novel, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, addresses the social inequality and racism of the Great Depression Era. The plot focuses on an influential bond formed between Jefferson, a falsely accused black man, and Grant Wiggins, a teacher, during Jefferson's trial. Jefferson faces the accusations of murder during a liquor store shootout. The verdict is announced and the court sentences the innocent man to an unjust death.
Meanwhile, as Grant Wiggins returns to his hometown, he receives the job of transforming Jefferson into a heroic and brave man before facing death. Although Grant despises the assigned task, he learns a valuable lesson from the experience. Grant questions, “Do I know how a man is supposed to die? I’m still trying to find out how a man should live” (31). Can Grant change Jefferson from a hog to a man, or will he die inhuman?


A Lesson Before Dying teaches the concepts of growing up and acquiring confidence. Although the novel portrays valuable morals, I would not recommend this work of literature to any reader who enjoys a happy ending. Overall, the plot did not capture my attention due to its unappealing content and structure. As each chapter progressed, the author’s diction became tedious, repetitive, and predictable. Additionally there were moments the writing was hard to comprehend. The novel lacked inspiration and motivation for the reader to eagerly flip the page. Despite my opinion on the novel, I give credit to Ernest J. Gaines for the ingenious concepts that he presented.
Word count: 252





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