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A Lesson Before Dying
Transcript of A Lesson Before Dying
"I don't know when I'm going to die, Jefferson. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe today. That's why I try to live as well as I can every day and not hurt people. Especially people who love me, people who have done so much for me, people who have sacrificed for me. I don't want to hurt those people. I want to help those people as much as I can." -This quote is one of the most significant quotes to the novel. Jefferson is a black man in a white mans society. His lawyer reffers to him as a hog and this quote shows that Jefferson believed him. Grant's goal is to prepare Jefferson to die as a respectable man. At this point in the story Jefferson believes that he is worth no more than a hog. This was many of the African Americans outlook on their lives. Grant wants to defy the predetermined destiny that is set by the history of his people by changing Jefferson's bypass mindset. Page 122 Chapter 16 (Chloe)
"You ain't no hog, you hear me? You ain't no hog." "That's all I'm is," he said. "Fattening up to ---" She slapped him. Then she fell upon him and cried... -This is the most piece of dialouge that Jefferson has said so far. This quote came from deep inside Jefferson's heart, which he's been hiding. This passage is so significant because of the recognition of Jefferson's role model: Jesus Christ. Jesus' actions influenced Jefferson to do the same at his execution. Jefferson relates to Jesus by his spiritual purification and his execution. Death is a huge factor in the story to help create Jefferson's development into a symbol of innocence. Page 139 Chapter 18 (McKenzie)
"Easter when they nailed Him to the cross. And He never said a mumbling word." -This quote said by Grant summarizes what the whole story is about. Jefferson is an innocent black man who is accused of murdering someone. Also, he is regarded as a hog instead of a human being. In a normal case, someone would be frightened knowing that they were going to die soon. However, Jefferson doesn't seem to take the injustice very seriously. He shuts everyone he cared for out. Although, it doesn't seem like Jefferson cared, Grant knew that he thought about dying every once in a while. Page 126 Chapter 16 (Emma)
"He must, because I know I do.I've seen myself walking tothat chair, more than once.I've woken up at night, sweating. How do you take it? That's the question." "I suppose every man wonders about death sometimes in his life." -This specific quote is setting the mood for the chapter. It shows Grant's true feelings and how he handles them. He didn't know what to believe in. He blamed himself because he wouldn't blame anyone else though it wasn't his fault. He's lost and doesn't know how to find his way. He stays on his lost path not knowing what to do. Page 125 Chapter 17 (Justin)
Or maybe it was just me.I could never stay angry long over anything. But I could never believe in anything, either, for very long. Character Analysis Theme/ Motifs - The Chair:
The chair is a symbol of violence with system of unjustice that prosecuted Jefferson. It represents fear of dying, as well as the bravery of Jefferson as he dies for his people. "'That chair,' he said... That chair was the last thing i wanted to talk about." (Page 138) Symbolism Mulatto- is a person who is a race of black and white.
Derrick- is a erected over an oil well to allow drill tubes to be raised and lowered.
Vexing- is to be irrated, distressed,or annoyed. Vocabulary Tone/Mood Imagery - Grant has an internal conflict within himself. He has a scarce source of faith in himself and in Jefferson. He constantly battels with making decisions dealing with Jefferson, Vivian, the community, and himself. With the help of his loved ones, he overcomes the obstacle in the road and begins to have faith again. Conflicts -Jefferson:
In chapters 16-20, we also see a drastic change in Jefferson. In the beginning, Jefferson is hesitant to talk to people that are willing to help him. His stubborness tests the frustration of Miss Emma and Grant. But as the pages roll on, something clicks. Jefferson's attitude changes with the help of Grant Wiggings. He lets his feelings out uncautiously and has deep conversations with Grant. These few chapters are significant to the development of Jefferson's death as a man instead of a hog. -Grant Wiggins:
In chapters 16-20, Grant portrays the sentimental side of Grant. In chapter 16, he has mentally prepared himself to take on the challenge of helping Jefferson, but he is not so sure of the outsome. When he enters Jefferson's cell, he doesn't know how to help Jefferson and his anger and frustration get the best of him. In chapter 18, Grant starts to see improvement out of Jefferson and they talk about Jesus, Christmas, and Easter. These four chapters show a significant change in Grant; beginning with him being unsure about Jefferson and ending with Grant fully dedicated to him. -Miss Emma:
Miss Emma is very ill and she is sadly on the road to death. She is hardley able to visit Jefferson, but when she does, she leaves in a frustrated mood. She prays that Jefferson will do what she wants, but in the same sense she has little hope. She keeps trying though and that shows that she is a strong woman that will stick to her world -Reverand Ambrose:
Reverand Ambrose has an undeniably enduring faith in God. Seeing that Grant does not have the same amount of passion for Christ that he does, Reverand dissaproves of Grant's partaking in helping Jefferson. He believes that Grant will have a sinful impact on Jefferson. But he cannot see the act of kindness that Grant is doing is a deed in the prescence of God. -Church:
The church is a symbol of hope for change in the African American community. The people of the town look to the church as a comforting thing toward the injustice and prejudice. At the beginning of the novel, Gaines emphasizes that the blacks enter through the back doors. However, when Grant is entering the church, Gaines emphasizes that Grant always enters through the front door. "I re-entered the church through the front door." (Page 118) "I went out through the front." (Page 120) These quotes show that the church is the only place that any black man or woman has authority. " 'Easter,' he said. He did not want to go on, but he felt he should. After all, a man was going to be put to death. ' It had to be before or after Easter.' (ch.20 pg.156"
"Same time as He died, between twelve and three." (ch.20 pg.158) One of the main themes of A Lesson Before Dying is redemption in death. These two quotes support that theme by suggesting that Jefferson is going to die as a man instead of a hog. The quotes also represent motifs by showing the theme through symbolism. Jefferson is going to die as a man like a Christ like figure who dies around Easter. "The sky was overcast, and there was a chill in the air." (ch.20 pg.154) This quote appeals to two of the senses: sight and feel. However, not only is this quote an example of imagery, but it is an example of symbolism, too. As this was occurring, Grant was on his way to hear the news of Jefferson's execution date. The sky overcasting and the chill in the air symbolized the death that was going to take place. "I wanted to see nothing but miles and miles of clear, blue water, then an island where I could be alone." "... and absolutely no one else. No one else." (ch.20 pg.159) Throughout the beginning of the book, Grant felt like it was useless to teach a black man on death row how to see himself as a man. However, he started to feel a connection towards Jefferson. In this quote, the author establishes a hopeless tone and a mood of despair. After Grant heard the execution date, all he wanted to do at that very moment was leave, especially since he began to feel close to Jefferson. He couldn't believe the injustice that happened to Jefferson, and the consequence because of it.