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Biblical Allusions in A Lesson Before Dying

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Matthew Brock

on 28 April 2015

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Transcript of Biblical Allusions in A Lesson Before Dying

Jefferson was put on trial for the murder of Mr Grope, a white storekeeper. Jefferson was innocent of murder but he did steal money, but his friends Brother and Bear were not. Brother and Bear had tried to rob Mr. Grope of some alcohol. Brother and Bear were both robbers who ended up being killed along with Mr. Grope. Jefferson is given a chance to help out his African American community. Jefferson is given a chance to stand up for his people and show that the African Americans are as much of a man as any white person.
Jesus was put on trial for being the King of the Jews and for going against the practiced religion. Jesus was crucified beside two robbers. Jesus is given the chance to sacrifice for his people. Jesus died on the cross so that those who believe in him will not perish but will have eternal life in heaven, and also to pay for our sins.
Biblical and Historical Allusions in
A Lesson Before Dying

Jefferson as a Biblical allusion
Jefferson and Jesus both come from a downtrodden race. The racism of the time, the 1940's, against African Americans draws a parallel to Jesus, who was a Jew, oppressed by the Romans.
Deputy Paul as a Biblical Figure
The meaning of the name Paul is small, or little. This is ironic because Deputy Paul can have a huge effect on the road to equality for the African American people and he plays a big part in the novel,
A Lesson Before Dying
. Also Deputy Paul is a Biblical Allusion to the Apostle Paul.
Other Allusions in
A Lesson Before Dying
Grant as an allusion to the Bible
Wrists and Ankles
As Jefferson is being prepared for execution, Paul, "pointed to areas on the leg and wrist"(243). Jefferson is being shaved on his ankles and on his wrist. This draws a parallel to Jesus, who had nails put through his ankle and wrist to be crucified. Jefferson is being given a chance to become a source of hope for his community, just a Jesus was, and is for Christians around the world. Jefferson being shaved on the wrist and ankles, draws a comparison to Jesus.
Crucifixion and Sacrificing for Others
Ulysses S. Grant was enrolled at West Point Military Academy at the age of 17. When he graduated, the Lieutenant was sent to St. Louis, Missouri. Years after that, he led military forces into many battles. Ulysses S. Grant was a great leader and was smart in the Mexican- American war. To Ulysses, the war was wrong, and was only a way for America to increase their territory for the spread of slavery. Ulysses's view is similar to Grant Wiggin's because Grant did not see the point in visiting Jefferson because he was going to die anyways. Both men thought what they were doing was pointless yet they continued to do it because they were told that it was the right thing to do and it was easier to go along with it than to argue their way out of it.

Miss Emma as a great stone
In the novel, Grant refers to Miss Emma as immobile as "a great stone or as one of our oak or cypress stumps"(3). This is an allusion to a Spiritual song about faith in God.
Both Have Their Eyes Opened
and Become Followers
Deputy Paul is a witness of Jefferson's transformation, and also his eyes have been opened to the wrongs the whites are doing to the blacks and is risking his life to be friends with the blacks and possibly help them gain equality.
Paul the Apostle was a witness of Jesus Christ and undergoes his own transformation. Paul while on his way to Damascus to persecute Jews was blinded when Jesus called out to him. Jesus called out then to Ananias the Apostle and Ananias laid his hands on Saul and through the Holy Spirit Saul's eyes regained sight and he was baptized. Saul switched from a persecutor of Jews to a follower of Christ and became Paul the Apostle.
Both are Witnesses
Deputy Paul was a witness of Jefferson's electrocution and also Paul began to help the African American people in their fight against racism. Deputy Paul was a witness of Jefferson's death and watched Jefferson undergo his transformation and fulfill his godmother's wish of him proving to the whites that he is not a hog but a man.
Saul (later known as Paul the Apostle) was a witness of Stephen, the first Christian martyr's death.Saul was present during Stephen's trial and stoning. Saul was a persecutor of the Jews at the time though and was on the persecutor's side.
Jefferson's Last Supper
Battles Being Fought
During the late 1940s the African American people were fighting against the white people on their racist views and segregation laws. The African Americans were trying to gain equality and respect.
During the Roman Empire Rule both the Jews and Christians were facing persecution. They had many rights taken away from them. Some people would have to pay taxes in order to be able to practice their religion. Others were expelled from the Roman Empire.
For his last meal, Jefferson wishes to have some of his favorite foods. He says, "just a little ice cream in a cup and a moon pie"(232). The mention of his last meal before his excution hints at the allusion to Jesus' last supper before his crucifixion. For his meal, Jesus' wanted it to be joyful and happy as did Jefferson.
The name Grant means grand or large which is the role that Grant Wiggins plays in the novel, A Lesson Before Dying. Also, Grant is an allusion to Ulysses S. Grant, a Union General, and is a Biblical Allusion the Thomas the Apostle.
Similar Views
The Transformation
The Electric Chair to the Cross
The chair represents the false and corrupt judgement of society. The people of Bayonne wrongly accused Jefferson of murder and so he must pay the price of death just as Jesus did when he was crucified on the cross.
Thomas Thomas the Apostle was a follower of Jesus until his showed his character in John 20 when he was in disbelief of Jesus’s resurrection. Thomas told the other Apostles, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). This is like Grant Wiggins because Grant did not believe that Jefferson could become a man before his death saying, “I can’t raise the dead” (Gaines A Lesson Before Dying 14). By saying this, Grant meant that Jefferson’s fate can’t be changed so visiting him isn’t going to do anything before he dies; Jefferson will die as he is now. Both the scripture from the Bible and the quote from the novel, show the men’s doubt until after the “resurrection”, when they got proof. Thomas’s proof was when Jesus came to him and all the other Apostles and said "Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed" (John 20:29). Thomas now believed the truth, therefore going through a self-transformation from a cynical non-believer to a believer who can go and spread the truth so that everyone else may believe too. Grant’s proof was when Paul came to the school after the execution and told him that it was done. Paul told Grant that, “He was the strongest man in that crowded room”(253) and Grant then knew that he had been wrong about Jefferson and therefore had also gone through a transformation much like Thomas the Apostle.
"The Crucifixion Of Jesus." The Crucifixion Of Jesus. Bible, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

"Jefferson's Diary." SparkNotes. Ed. Sparknotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

"A Lesson Before Dying Quotes and Analysis." A Lesson Before Dying Quotes and Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
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