A Lesson Before DyingBook - 1993
Grant Wiggins, who left his small rural black community to go to university, has returned to the plantation school to teach children whose lives promise to be not much better than Jefferson's. But he wonders whether he has the will to take off north or west like so many before him who knew it was the only way to climb out of a centuries-old rut. He is grappling with his own situation when Jefferson's godmother and Grant's aunt persuade Grant to impart something of himself, of his learning and pride, to Jefferson before his death - to prove the lawyer wrong.
A Lesson Before Dying tells the story of these two men who, through no choice of their own, come together and form a bond in the realization that sometimes simply choosing to resist the expected is an act of heroism. Ernest Gaines brings to the novel the same rich sense of place, the same deep understanding of the human psyche, and the same compassion for a people and their struggle that have informed his previous, widely praised novels.
From Library Staff
“I want you to show them the difference between what they think you are and what you can be.”
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SummaryAdd a Summary
This novel follows the events after a verdict is handed out to an uneducated black man on shoddy evidence and very slim motives. The implication is that the verdict was racist and the rest of the book explores that theme. During his trial, the man, (Jefferson) is compared to a hog. The rest of the novel is about the development of his character as Grant, a cynical black schoolteacher teaches him that he is just as brave and valuable as any of the white folk. The novel is a heartfelt testimony that centres around the hopelessness of unjust discrimination and a person's self worth.
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