The novel A lesson before dying is written by Ernest J. Gaines. The novel is narrated from Grant Wiggin’s point of view. The novel has depicted the changes in the thought process and moods of Grant (Gaines, 1997). The novel also uses in the setting the discrimination and racism which engulfed the firmament of American society in the beginning and mid of the twentieth century.
The story tells that the main character of the novel, Grant is the only educated member of black community. He returned to his home town from university but the only job available for him is to teach in small church school of the town. He finds himself confined due to the social pressures which restricted him to gain his personal pleasures, happiness and freedom.
All these social pressures and the overall social inequality against black community make Grant very pessimistic about helping his community. He does not consider himself capable of helping others and solving all the community problems.
The mood and thoughts of the narrator is very somber who becomes skeptical about his own capabilities and lose motivation of helping others. The mood of the Grant depicts the mood of all the educated blacks of that time who feel isolated and deprived of personal pleasures at that time. At this juncture, he comes across with Jefferson who is waiting to be executed for a murder. Grant’s relationship with Jefferson shows the change of mood and his thought process.
As the novel and their relationship progress Grant discovers that Jefferson does not commit the murder and he realizes the sacrifice Jefferson is given for his black community.
This is the turning point of the novel from where Grant’s mindset is started changing and he appreciates that even a single man can also make a big difference in the society. Jefferson teaches Grant that the act of resisting an inevitable is also sometimes pronounced as a heroic act.
The title of the novel describes the basic theme of the novel. During entire story Grant tries to teach a lesson to Jefferson that how to become a man; but in the end it is Jefferson who teaches Grant that the real man is someone who does not care for his personal self and pleasures and ready to sacrifice even his life for the sake of his community and society.
It is an excellent novel praised by critics and common readers alike. It discusses the social problems associated with black community in mid of 20th century. The mood and thought process of the narrator changes as the book progresses and in the concluding part of the book he learns the lesson that resisting an inevitable act is also an act of heroism.