General Overview Of A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

May 18, 2022 by Essay Writer

Ernest J Gaines wrote A Lesson Before Dying to share that despite what society thinks of you, you have the power to define who you are. He uses symbols, and figurative language to show the mutual development of Jefferson and Grant throughout the story.Gaines uses the symbol of the window to represent freedom for Jefferson. The window is an opening to the outside world. When Grant and his nannan first visit Jefferson at the jail, Grant noted the window was high on the wall not allowing him to be able to see fully out of it only seeing the tops of trees, and the sky. At first, Gaines uses the window as a way for Jefferson to mentally escape from his visitors. For example, on page 82 Grant says, “ After a while, he raised his head, but he didn’t look at me; he looked at the barred window”. Gaines uses small gestures like this one to illustrate Jefferson’s reluctance to open up to Grant. However later on in the story in the story Gaines uses the window to highlight how much their relationship has grown. “ he studied me a while, then he turned his back and looked up at the window. ‘So pretty out there’ he said ‘so pretty I have never seen it so pretty then he turns his back and looked up at the window. So pretty out there he said so pretty they never seem so pretty’”(225). In this quote not only does it show Jefferson willingly participating in a conversation, but also he is confiding in Jefferson. Telling him about what he sees through the window and his new hope.Gaines also uses food as a symbol to show acceptance. This is illustrated when Grant declines food at Mr. Pichot’s house, the white plantation owner. He feels that eating Mr. Pichot’s food would only be an insult to himself. We see this when he says “ I damned sure would not add hurt to injury by eating at his

Ernest J Gaines wrote A Lesson Before Dying to share that despite what society thinks of you, you have the power to define who you are. He uses symbols, and figurative language to show the mutual development of Jefferson and Grant throughout the story.

Gaines uses the symbol of the window to represent freedom for Jefferson. The window is an opening to the outside world. When Grant and his nannan first visit Jefferson at the jail, Grant noted the window was high on the wall not allowing him to be able to see fully out of it only seeing the tops of trees, and the sky. At first, Gaines uses the window as a way for Jefferson to mentally escape from his visitors. For example, on page 82 Grant says, “ After a while, he raised his head, but he didn’t look at me; he looked at the barred window”. Gaines uses small gestures like this one to illustrate Jefferson’s reluctance to open up to Grant. However later on in the story in the story Gaines uses the window to highlight how much their relationship has grown. “ he studied me a while, then he turned his back and looked up at the window. ‘So pretty out there’ he said ‘so pretty I have never seen it so pretty then he turns his back and looked up at the window. So pretty out there he said so pretty they never seem so pretty”(225). In this quote not only does it show Jefferson willingly participating in a conversation, but also he is confiding in Jefferson. Telling him about what he sees through the window and his new hope.

Gaines also uses food as a symbol to show acceptance. This is illustrated when Grant declines food at Mr. Pichot’s house, the white plantation owner. He feels that eating Mr. Pichot’s food would only be an insult to himself. We see this when he says “ I damned sure would not add hurt to injury by eating at his kitchen table”(46). This quote helps readers understand that though Pinchot decided to be Jefferson’s lawyer, Grant doesn’t respect him and has too much respect for himself to share food with him. We also see Jefferson going from not eating Mrs. Emma’s food at all than eating like a hog and finally eating at the table with everyone. This supports the fact that food represents acceptance because as Jefferson accepts different ideas his eating habits change. When he accepted the fact that he was a hog he ate the food in the manner that the hog would eat. Once he accepted Grant as a friend, he ate in a more humane manner.

Gaines uses repetition to show Jefferson and Grant’s growth of understanding of what it means to be a man. On page 73 Jefferson repeatedly says” It don’t matter”, nothing matters to him anymore because he was going to die anyway. This theme of repetition can also be seen in chapter 8 when Grant was visiting Mr. Antoine. The previous teacher makes it clear that Grant staying there was a mistake for staying because “You have to go away to know about life. There’s no life here. There’s nothing but ignorance”(65). Both Grant and Jefferson are set in a nothing matters attitude and a way of living. However, we see this idea change to both characters caring about the people around them and realizing life does matter. We see this on page 224 when Jefferson decides that he will be a man. He starts his monologue off in what seems to be a complaining manner, saying “Me, Mr. Wiggins. Me. Me to take to the cross. Your cross, nannan’s cross, my own cross. Me, Mr. Wiggins”(224). This shows that Jefferson has come to the understanding that it is his duty to support everyone and if he doesn’t then they will all fail. After this speech Grant notes that Jefferson is “big and tall,” and he isn’t “stooped as he had been in chains”(225). This shows that the idea of dying and carrying everyone’s burden no longer weighs Jefferson down because he has learned that being a man is about caring for your community. He realized that life does matter and he will die knowing that he is a man. We the effect of Jefferson’s transition into manhood on the way that Grant thinks. On the day of the execution Grant questions what will happen next because” Nothing will ever be the same after today”(248). This shows that the death of Jefferson impacted the way the life of a man should be.

Gaines used the symbolism of the window and food to represent the freedom and acceptance that Jefferson and Grant find in each other. He also uses repetition to show what being a man was first perceived as, and then to represent what being a man truly means. He uses all of this to show that Grant and Jefferson’s mutual growth is what shaped their individual growth.

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