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"I was not there, yet I was there. No, I did not go to the trial, I did not hear the verdict, because I knew all the time what it would be..." So begins Grant Wiggins, the narrator of Ernest J. Gaines's powerful exploration of race, injustice, and resistance, A Lesson Before Dying. If young Jefferson, the accused, is confined by the law to an iron-barred cell, Grant Wiggins is no less a prisoner of social convention. University educated, Grant has returned to the tiny plantation town of his youth, where the only job available to him is teaching in the small plantation church school. More than 75 years after the close of the Civil War, antebellum attitudes still prevail: African Americans go to the kitchen door when visiting whites and the two races are rigidly separated by custom and by law. Grant, trapped in a career he doesn't enjoy, eaten up by resentment at his station in life, and angered by the injustice he sees all around him, dreams of taking his girlfriend Vivian and leaving Louisiana forever. But when Jefferson is convicted and sentenced to die, his grandmother, Miss Emma, begs Grant for one last favor: to teach her grandson to die like a man.
As Grant struggles to impart a sense of pride to Jefferson before he must face his death, he learns an important lesson as well: heroism is not always expressed through action--sometimes the simple act of resisting the inevitable is enough. Populated by strong, unforgettable characters, Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying offers a lesson for a lifetime.
I recommend that all high school students and adults read this book.
Touching upon one of his themes, Gaines utilizes the power of genuine empathy between the readers to his characters, to drive his message of awareness.
Jefferson's Godmother and her good friend convince Grant Wiggins to visit Jefferson in his cell.
While the subject matter is a little disturbing, descriptions are sparkling and honest. Loved the story and the characters.Published 8 hours ago by Mary P Wix
This poignant story is told in plain unsentimental language that manages to convey astonishing depths of emotion. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Marjorie DeLuca
This is a quality novel that probes the dehumanizing factor of racism in our society at the personal level. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Stephen McCutchan
I'm typing through the glossy lens of my tears. Sad beyond sad, but hopeful beyond reason. That the racial implications underlying this story are still so prevalent is tragic, but... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Eric
It was a little slow to start but I read over half the book in a day because I couldn't put it down!Published 14 days ago by Annie Biersack
It was a difficult story to read but "Miss Jane Pittman" is one of my favorites by this author. I couldn't put it down once I got started. Read morePublished 15 days ago by SuziQ