A Lesson Before Dying Study Guide

A Lesson Before Dying Study Guide

“A Lesson Before Dying” is a fictional novel written by Ernest Gaines. The book was nominated for numerous well-respected prizes and awards. It talks about a man who is sentenced to death for the crime he didn't commit.

The author was born in Louisiana during the Depression times. He himself was involved with manual labor since early ages and then moved to California, where he first discovered his love for reading and writing. He wrote this novel about the hard life of the African Americans all the way from Civil war until the 1940s.

Gaines talks about the migration of the African Americans from the South into the urban cities of the North. But he also shows that simply escaping the slavery wasn’t a success. The North also didn’t treat the newcomers with welcoming hugs and leaving behind their families and abandoning the native places and roots marked a deep scar in the generations that survived.

The protagonist of the novel, Jefferson, is accused of murder. Jefferson is kind of slow and not a good orator, but he claims that he is innocent and it’s easy for the reader to believe him. But he lives in the conditions where to be successful or even understood one must be of a different skin color, and the jury has no problem finding him guilty and sentencing him to death.

The grandmother of the man asks Gant Wiggins, the teacher of the plantation, to help her grandson die like a man, not like a hog that he’s been called all along the trial process. Gant visits Jefferson often, talking to him about his thoughts, wishes, and fears. The man asks for a bucket of vanilla ice cream as his last meal…

In the end, the reader comes to view the man who had no future or interest for the society as a symbolic figure. He represents an entire lost generation of people whom the society sacrifices for the sake of prejudice and self-dignity.

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