"A Lesson.." taught me one

A Lesson Before Dying by E. Gaines brings to mind - PURPOSE

Grant's purpose - Turn a hog into a man & Jefferson's purpose - Bring hope to a people

This is an example of a student poster that can be created for class

This poster

  • Examines character development of the protagonist
  • Analyzes imagery and themes used in the novel
  • Gives insight into the historical background of novel
  • Provides brief summary of a chapter

Protagonist - Grant Wiggins

Grant Wiggins unwillingly becomes a part of Jefferson’s jailhouse life.

Grant tells his aunt, “I’m not feeling guilty, Tante Lou. I didn’t put him there. I do everything I know how to do to keep people like him from going there” (p. 123)

Grant has invested too much in getting himself away from the backdoors of kitchens and jailhouse cells to be forced to go back there. Grant believes that there is no way to change the perception the world has about an uneducated black man. Grant must teach Jefferson how to die like a man. In doing so, Grant examines his place and purpose in the community and Jefferson learns to act with dignity and pride while facing his own death.

Grant reluctantly grows to accept his role of savior but it came after much personal reflection and soul searching. In the end, he understands his role in Jefferson's transformation. It is only through connecting with Jefferson through a radio, a notebook and his class is Grant able to put on his cape and continue to fight the good fight.

The image of A HOG

The defense attorney compares Jefferson to a hog by saying, “Why, I would just

as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this” (p. 8).

He compared Jefferson to a hog so that we, the readers and the people in the courtroom, could have a visual of a fat, sloppy hog, fishing around in mud. This visual is a very effective one because we can all visualize the worthlessness of such an unattractive animal. In the end, this image backfired on him because it is the use of these words that prompts Miss Emma and Tante Lou fight so hard to have these negative impressions removed. Even though Jefferson suggests it, Miss Emma won't bring him corn to eat because she can see the hog eating the corn and she does not want to have Jefferson do anything that might associate him with that lowly animal.

Historical background - Sharecropping

Many of the blacks who stayed in the South had one vocation - farming. But they did not own land and supporting their families was difficult. Sharecropping became accepted because it allowed sharecroppers to pay their debts with interest by working and giving a portion of their crops to the landowners. Landowners would lease a parcel of their land and rent out tools, seed, fertilizer, and other necessities. Many plantation owners operated stores that sold other needed supplies and the farmers where farmers “charged” what they needed. The farmer could sell the remaining crops that were left over for a profit.

Manhood and Racial Injustice are driving THEMES

Manhood - What makes a man a MAN?

"The public defender called Jefferson a hog, and she wants me to make him a

man” (p. 39) Was Grant's cry of frustration. The question of what makes a man a man is repeated throughout the book. Mr. Gaines makes the reader question whether or not being labeled 'a hog' and treated a certain way can have an affect on how you are perceived and treated.

Racial Injustice - Am I guilty because I did it or because I look the part?

“They sentence you to death because you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, with no proof that you had anything at all to do with the crime other than being there when it happened” (p. 158).

Grant basically described a situation that many of us refer to as 'driving while black.' It is the notion that you (or Grant from the novel) are perceived as being guilty due to our circumstances of birth. Grant is also guilty of doing the same thing because he did not consider whether or not Jefferson was guilty. He too made him guilty by circumstance.