'A hero is someone who does something for other people. He does something that other men don't' and can't do. ' How does heroism play an essential role in the narrative? A man who has the courage and dignity to put themselves second for the greater benefit of others is a hero. In the novel there is a great need for somebody to stand up in the face of racism and show the community that black African Americans are just as strong, and just as human as the white men. In fact they can behave with more integrity and be more of men than the whites.
The behavior and actions taken by Jefferson display this fact perfectly. Both Grant and Jefferson play a role of heroism, which is so desperately necessary for the hope of their people. Their actions promote equality and signify a deep and important message. Grant Wiggins plays a strong heroic role throughout the novel and this has a significant impact on the happenings of the story. Grant continuously put his needs and desires second for the good of others. Mrs. Emma needs Grant to turn Jefferson into a man, a request that puts great pressure on and asks a lot of Grant.
Never the less he steps up to the task and all the baggage that goes with it. This mission is particularly difficult for Grant because it requires him to put up with being humiliated by the whites. He is forced to allow himself to play up to the belief of the white supremacy which goes against everything he has worked for. A clear example of this is when he has to go through the back door of the Pichot's house, which is typically for the tradesmen, and workers of the Pichot's family. He is then made to wait for two hours before Henri Pichot ? ives him the privilege' of meeting with him. Also every time Grant goes to the jail he is treated like a common criminal and is searched to put him in his place and constantly remind him that he is looked down on as an inferior who is not to be trusted. Grant went to university to become a professional, a teacher and an intellectual equal of any white man. He cannot use the vocabulary he possesses and instead has to use words such as ? don't' rather than ? did not' so he is not to offend the whites who believe he should speak like ? a nigger'.
He says to Tante Lou ? everything you sent me to school for, you're stripping me of it'. No matter how confronting and tough the circumstances of the task get Grant's actions are completely unselfish, the well being of others and their wishes is foremost in his mind. Jefferson is a hero for all the black people who acknowledge him and his triumph of ? sticking it to the whites'. Although he is subjected to racism in the most unforgiving form he has the dignity to be a man and walk the chair. Jefferson does not behave like the ? hog' he was labeled or the ? igger' the whites class him as, instead he has the courage to be the strongest man in the room on the day of his execution. As Grant says you need to 'chip away' at the whites' myth that they are superior, by forcing them to see a 'black man stand, and think, and show the common humanity that is in us all'. And this is precisely what Jefferson achieves. He shows them that he is '? just as much of a man ? more of a man than they can ever be. ' This is desperately needed for the hope and future of the people of Bayonne and surrounding communities.
Through Jefferson they receive the message that no matter what the whites may do to them they can still have dignity and not succumb to the belief of white supremacy. Jefferson resembles Christ in this way, he is sacrificed but for the good of his people. The town is crying out for a man to stand up and be their hero, this is reflected in the way they honour and are lifted by the performance of Jackie Robinson, a successful African American Baseball player. He won a fight and 'for days after that fight, for weeks, we held our heads higher than any people on earth had ever done for any reason. The black men are always running away under the pressure of racism and most end up dead or in prison. It does not help that Professor Mathew Antoine is a racist himself and teaches the children that unless they run away they will '? become the niggers they were born to be'. The future generations are not taught to be ? heroes' and fight against the racism. This is where Grant and Jefferson are different. Most people act the way that they are treated, Jefferson and Grant do not. They do something that other men cannot and do not do, they are heroes.