The Literary Merit of A Lesson Before Dying Essay

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The Literary Merit of A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest Gaines was born during the middle of the Great Depression on January 15, 1933. He was the oldest of twelve children. At the age of nine Gaines worked as an errand boy on the River Lake Plantation, the same plantation his book A Lesson Before Dying was set in. Gaines was raised by his Aunt Augusteen Jefferson, much like Grant, the protagonist in the novel, was raised by his Aunt Tante Lou. At the age of fifteen Gaines rejoined his immediate family in Vallejo, California because there were no high schools for him to attend in Louisiana. Gaines also wanted to enter a public library which was illegal for people of color to use. At this time in U.S. History, books about colored people
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She enlists the help of Grant Wiggins, a schoolteacher and nephew of her best friend, Tante Lou. Miss. Emma plans to have Wiggins visit Jefferson every week to try to convince him that he is a man. At the start of these visits, Jefferson is unresponsive and angry to both Miss Emma and Wiggins; however, as time passes by Jefferson slowly starts talking with Wiggins while remaining unresponsive to Miss Emma. This cruel treatment causes Miss Emma to be bedridden. Wiggins is forced to continue these visits alone.

Over the next few visits, the connection between Jefferson and Wiggins begins to intensify, and encouraged by this, Wiggins decides to leave a notebook and a pencil with Jefferson so that when he is not there he can write things down he wants to say to Wiggins during his next visit. When Wiggins returns the next week, he finds that a whole page of the notebook has been filled discussing the differences between “youmans” and hogs. At the end of the page, Jefferson concludes that he really is a human being and not a hog that the lawyer called him in the trial. It is at this time that the governor sets the execution date for the Friday two weeks after Easter. Before Jefferson’s execution, the two men have many talks in which Wiggins, in contradiction of his atheistic beliefs, tells Jefferson that he will indeed go to heaven.

On the day of Jefferson’s execution, the whole town is silent and somber. Wiggins has declined the Sheriff’s offer to be a witness to the

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