Theme of Justice in Ernest J. Gaines’ Novel A Lesson Before Dying

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Everyone has different options on justice and who deserves justice but in reality it’s really faiths decision on who gets justice and who doesn’t. In the novel “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines, about a young boy in his teens being sentenced to death for being an accomplice to a robbery gone wrong, Gaines develops the theme of justice through the imagery the author, Gaines, portrays throughout the book.

One way that Gaines developed the theme justice throughout the novel is through the imagery he portrays in chapters 17 and 29. In chapter 17, Jefferson has come to his senses that his innocence is being ignored and there’s no way of getting out of the accusation against him now and he finally accepting the fact that he is going to die, and his family isn’t taking that well especially his mom because she not accepting the fact that he’s gonna be gone which would be hard for any women. On pg.128, Jefferson states “that’s ‘fore I die,. He said lowering his eyes to look at me. He repeated it, “Thats ‘fore I die”.

This quote justifies Gaines development of justice through imagery because as stated in the quote Jefferson starts to “Lower his eyes to look” and when someone starts to lower here eyes it’s usually to be very real and sober about the situation that is going on and in this case is trying to be real about the fact that he’s going to die and even though no one else wants to accept this he feels he has to and because he has to it makes it a very real and emotional moment for those around him. Especially for black men in the system they are not really fortunate especially when it comes to getting out of prison and jail and of consequences so Jefferson as a black man in jail knowing his faith is gonna end it death must be pretty hard for him and his family and it also send us a message that we need to do better as a whole and support the people on the inside no matter what color they are or what they do everyone deserve to be helped and supported.

Also in chapter 29 on page 228,which is Jeffersons diary, he states “ I just cant sleep no mo cause evertime i shet my eyes i see that door an fore i git ther i wake up and i dont go back to sleep cause i don’t want walk to that door no mo cause i don’t know what back o ther if it’s wher they gon put that cher or if boo went to heven cause i know he didn’t git religin firs”. This is a great demonstration of how the author develops the theme justice through imagery because here we have Jefferson who is sitting down writing in his journal and as he is writing in his journal he’s remembering these events as if he is living through them as he writes his story out and this is imagery because when he states “ I shet my eyes i see that door” it makes it very realistic that Jefferson is a young black boy who had his whole life ahead of him now he’s in a prison cell with nothing and is afraid to even shut his eyes because everytime he does he feels like something back is gonna happen, and who wouldn’t be scared of being a young black boy in prison getting ready to die because of a robbery gone wrong.

In conclusion, in the novel “ A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J.Gaines, Gaines developes the theme justice through imagery throughout chapters 17 and 29 and how the imagery portrays real life problems that track back to where we are today with our justice system and how especially black men get in trouble for little minor things such as being at the wrong place at the wrong time which then turns into black men eventually spending life in jail which isn’t fair because white or black everyone makes mistakes and everyone’s mistake should be treated equally and if that can’t happen then that really messed up. In all, it sucks that the system works against black people and works with white people instead of working and helping both races, but in the end that what makes the black race nice and strong and unable to break down.


Read more