In the following test, jefferson, the protagonist of Ernest J. Gaines’ novel “A Lesson Before Dying”will be characterized according to the first twelve chapters.


Jefferson whose surname is not known yet, is a black man of twenty-one years old. He lives in Louisana in the late 1940s and used to work on plantations “…he knew that the grinding season was coming soon…” (p.8. l.5f.). Miss Emma, Jefferson’s godmother shares the home and she means everything to him and vice versa “- mama, grandmother, godmother” (p.11, l.30). As she raised him, the relationship must be very close ”  He knew taking money was wrong. His nannan told him never to steal. He didn’t want to steal. “(p.10, l.1f.). With regard to his behaviour concerning the crime of taking money and killing 3 men, Jefferson obviously is no human of intelligence but of ignorance ” But he was talking to a dead man. Still he did not run. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t believe that tis happened. Again, he couldn’t remember how he had gotten there. “(p.9, l.22ff.). Apart from that, poverty and inexperience are terms reigning his life since ” He had never dialed a telephone in his life ” (p.9, l.29) and ” he didn’t have a solitary dime ” (p.8, l.2f.). His action of not only stealing money but also the nonaction result from Jefferson’s cowardice.  Therefore, ” animal ” (p.10, l.15), ” hunger and plain stupidity ” (p.10 , l.26), ” a boy and a fool ” ( p. 10, l.34) are according to the defence lawyer suitable terms describing Jefferson. In order to get a positive verdict, he is even depicted as a ” hog” (p. 12, l.5). Calling Jefferson a hog alludes also the subordination and humiliation since animals are not capable of thinking and judging and they lack a conscience , so they are less worth than human beings.”… a thing that acts on command” (p.11, l.12) appeals the inferiority and ignorance of that individual. In addition, at Miss Emma’s and Grant Wiggins’ first visit in jail , he does not pay attention to them, they are ignored and that is the reason why Jefferson is unresponsive and rejects other people, separating himself from humanity (p.66 , l.33ff.). This preceding statement is stressed if one considers the fact that the convicted Jefferson pretends to be a hog by behaving impolitely while eating (p.76, l.29ff.) and by having no conscience and no emotions (p.76. l. 19ff.). Due to the verdict and the claim of being a hog, one the one hand, Jefferson isolates himself from the human beings and on the other hand from the society and hence he is alone, coping the grievance notwithstanding that his fellow men consisting of particularly Miss Emma and Grant Wiggins care for Jefferson.