Archive for October, 2010


In the novel ” A Lesson Before Dying”, Ernest J. Gaines puts focus on the drastic change of Jefferson’s life, a young black man after he is unfairly sentenced to death.

Hereinafter, the chapters 7 and 8 will be summarized which deal with the annual school visit by a white superintendent .

In the church, which is to represent the school, the annual school visit takes place. The superintendent who controls the circumstances in order to be capable of giving a feedback, treats the pupils in a more or less neutral way more caring for their behavior and shape rather than for the school’s condition. Also Grant Wiggins is neglected and not regarded as equal since his request for books is ignored.

Later, the school receives its first load of wood, showing that the winter is about to come. As an inevitable consequence of seeing the children working, Grant Wiggins himself remembers his past when he has not had the options, the children now have. What is more, he  evokes memories of his relationship between his former teacher Matthew Antoine and himself. Matthew has told him to leave Bayonne in order to escape the race-thinking.


In the novel ” A Lesson Before Dying”, Ernest J. Gaines puts focus on the drastic change of Jefferson’s life, a young black man after he is unfairly sentenced to death.

In the subsequent text, the narrative technique in the chapters from 1 to 6 will be analysed.

One can say that the narration is done by a first person narrator and that his knowledge is restricted (p.7l.7ff.). Grant Wiggins includes his own feelings and interprets the others’ actions , so the consequence of identifying with him is provided for the reader (p.15, l. 1ff.). In addition, his telling is supported with flashbacks which differ. The first one describing the accident and the happenings in court is presented in detail as if the narrator is to be omniscient( p.7, l. 25-p. 12,l.26.). In this description of different positions, there is no valuation to guarantee objectivity, I suppose. Another flashback is to find in chapter 3 where Grant’s childhood is shown (p. 19, l. 31 – p. 20, l. 15) but here  judging is remarkable since he says ” I could not imagine this place, this house, existing without the two of them (Miss Emma  and Tante Loue) here”(p.20, l.7f.). In the course of the plot, the story is told in Grant Wiggin’s view anyways and according to his feelings, his past and his thoughts or also inner monologues, one is capable of identifying with the protagonist.

In the following text  the distinct positions in reference to Grandmother’s task will be shown.

Louis Rougon is speechless since he “could not believe what he was hearing” (p.23., l.5) What is more, he makes fun of the the task while betting on a failure (p.41, l.16ff.). Another point to mention is that Louis and the fat man despise the black men as inferior and dumb and therefore they despise all they demanded, too (p. 45,l.26.ff.;p.45, l.31.f.).  Anyways, both, Louis Rougon and the fat man are amused of the situation since on the one hand there is a bet going and on the other hand because the blacks request kind of more rights (p.46, l.6f. ; p.46,l.31f.).

At first glance, Edny Guidry , the sheriff’s wife, seems not to take part in the decision or even does not to want to because she says that she’ll leave all that up to Mr. Wiggins and the sheriff (p.43,l.26.) but in the course of the story it becomes clear that Edny convinces her husband of Grant’s permission to visit Jefferson (p.47, l.17.f.)

The sheriff himself, Sam Guidry, is not impressed by such a proposal as he claims ” …I think the only thing you can do is just aggravate him, trying to put something in his head against his will. And I’d rather see a contented hog to go that chair than an aggravated hog. It would be better for everybody concerned. There ain’t a thing you can put in that skull that ain’t there already” (p.47, l.28ff.). Actually he supports the idea of the status quo since Sam Guidry agrees with Grant Wiggins not to have anything to do with it at all (p.47,l.14ff.).

Grant Wiggins does not like the idea, the grandmother has because he believes that he is unsuitable for that job (p.31,l.11ff.). Apart from that, the task gets on his nerves as he already has enough work to do (p.13, l.7f.; p.18, l.13f.).  Another aspect that stresses Grant Wiggin’s negative position towards Miss Emma’s task represents the fact that he is forced by his aunt Tante Loue and the disturbed and not mutual relationship between Loue and Grant (p.17, l. 6ff. ;p.34, l.25ff.). The direct speeches ” His nannan would like for me to visit him” (p. 46,l.2f.) and ” I would rather not have anything to do with it, sir. But that’s what she wants.” (p.47,l.11f.) are proofs for that.

In the novel ” A Lesson Before Dying”, Ernest J. Gaines puts focus on the drastic change of Jefferson’s life, a young black man after he is unfairly sentenced to death.

The story takes place near a plantation in Louisana in the late 1940s and surprisingly not in the prison yet. Other places where actions happen are Bayonne where Grant Wiggins, the first person narrator has his girlfriend and the court announcing the verdict.

Hereinafter, I will point out all the information I could find on Jefferson in the chapters 1 to 6. This will be structured according to the different perspectives.


In the godmother’s opinion, Jefferson represents a significant part in her life. Though Miss Emma, as everyone, knows the verdict she is extremely shocked since she cares for his godson. This can be proven by seeing her immobility (p.7, l.9 ff.). Additionally, the compassion and the close relationship between the nannan and Jefferson is shown if one regards her depression while saying that her godson was described as a hog (p.15, l.8f.). Miss Emma is deeply hurt and moved not only by the verdict, so the fact of losing Jefferson (p. 21, l.15ff.) but also by the claim of raising a hog . ” They called my boy a hog, Mr. Henri,” Miss Emma said. ” I didn’t raise no hog, and i don’t want no hog to go set in that chair. I want a man to go set in that chair, Mr. Henri.”(p. 21. l.29ff.). This demonstrates that she wants Jefferson to acquire pride and dignity guaranteeing  him not to be a boy and a fool with a modicum of intelligence anymore but to be an example of a real man. On the one hand, regret can be noticed this way because it proves his lack of experience but on the other hand it depicts her love to Jefferson as it permits him an educational  progress. She cares for him and cannot stand the judicial decision : “Jefferson go’n need me, but I’m too old to be going up there.My heart w”nt take it…” (p. 21, l.34ff.).


The prosecutor claims Jefferson to be an animal (p.10, l. 15.). Apart from that, in his point of view, Jefferson had the full intention of committing that crime(p.10,l.11ff.) so character traits of his are likely to be evil, bad , cold hearted and greedy.

My Personal View

I guess that Jefferson is an innocent, honest and normal boy because he is raised by godmother who told him to live a proper life and not to do any wrong (p.10, l.1f.). But I’m also of the opinion that he lacks education as he does not react in any kind in court.

Defence Lawyer

“Jefferson was innocent of all charges except being at the wrong place at the wrong time” (p.10, l.18f.). Furthermore, the defence lawyer associates him with nouns as hunger and plain stupidity (p.10, l.26). This simplemindedness is underlined as he says that Jefferson is rather a boy and a fool than a man with a modicum of intelligence and as he describes him as a slave acting on command, not knowing whether something is right or wrong (p.10,l.31ff. ; p.11,l.12.). As a consequence of that foolishness, according to the lawyer, Jefferson is not even capable of planning such a crime (p.11, l.6ff.). Not to forget that he represents the backbone for the family, playing the role of the reason to go on living (p.11, l.29ff.).