A Lesson Before Dying

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Storyboard Description

By Earnest J. Gaines

Storyboard Text

  • Opening Scene
  • "What justice would there be to take this life? Justice, gentlemen? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in this electric chair."
  • Climax
  • "I want you to show them the difference between what they think you are and what you can be."
  • Closing Scene
  • "He knows what it means to be a slave. I am a slave."
  • The opening scene introduces a court room in Bayonne, Louisiana where the narrator Grant Wiggins describes the case of Jefferson, a man falsely accused of robbery and murder. Leading up to a major theme of the novel, Jefferson is called a hog. Defending claims that no hog has the capability of planning/executing a murder; he should not stand trial because he is below the law and that of a human.
  • A Lesson Before Dying: Approach
  • The sociological approach to A Lesson Before Dying focuses on the juxtaposition of both characters to the world around them.
  • The climax of the novel occurs in chapter 23 where Jefferson finally comes to terms with his death at the set of the execution date. He agrees to take the notebook given by Grant and accepts the bag of pecans collected by the school children. A major turning point for both characters, Jefferson who shows humanity and Grant who finds solace claiming it was as if he'd "found his religion."
  • Interpretations
  • Both characters face social prejudices. Jefferson is dim-witted and slow while Grant Wiggins is a college educated man; however, both face the implications that come with being black during that time period.
  • The significance of the closing scene shows Jefferson's final admonition to his faith and his resilience to dying a man's death. Grant who put his faith in Jefferson ironically questions God who condemned him; he wonders why it is the same God, the Reverend, Emma, and Tante Lou worship. The death of Jefferson has a profound impact on the town connecting him with humanity and reflects on how others viewed him.
  • Personally I enjoyed the text overall. I loved its simplicity and the profundity of the story line. I also loved the characters: genuine, despite society's prejudices. It is still absolutely relevant in many of its themes today and I believe that it its indicative of how certain groups are marginalized simply because of race.
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