In the novel a lesson before dying Essay, Grant and Jefferson are black men
in the era of a racist society; but they have struggles with a greater dilemma, obligation and
commitment. They have obligations to their families and to the town they are part of. They lived in
a town were everybody knew everybody else and took care of each other. “Living and teaching on a
plantation, you got to know the occupants of every house, and you knew who was home and who
.. I could look at the smoke rising from each chimney or I could look at the rusted tin roof
of each house, and I could tell the lives that went on in each one of them.” pp. 37-38 Just by
Grants words you can tell that that is a community that is very devoted to each other. It was a little
bit harder for Jefferson to remember his commitment to his nannan and to the town.
He had been
charged with a crime he did not commit and didnt know how to deal with it. They were asking a
lot from a man who knew he was going to die soon.”Me, Mr. Wiggins. Me. Me to take the cross.
Your cross, nannan’s cross, my own cross. Me, Mr. Wiggins. This old stumbling nigger. Y’all axe
a lot, Mr. Wiggins.
” p. 224 It takes a strong man to forget about yourself and do something for
someone else when your in the position that Jefferson is in. It took a while; but Jefferson did what
had to be done, in the end. Grant’s task is to affirm that Jefferson is not a hog, but a man. The
mission is doubly difficult because Grant isn’t sure he knows what a man is. Besides not knowing
what a man is, Grant doesnt feel that he, a well educated man, should have to go and make
Jefferson believe that he is not a hog; which shows the amount of arrogance Grant has about
Even in the courtroom Grant wasnt even paying attention to what was going on. “I was
not there, yet I was there.” p. 3: the first sentence of the novel He doesnt want to do it and holds
his aunt responsible for helping to humiliate him. “Everything you sent me to school for, you’re
stripping me of it,’ I told my aunt..
.. `The humiliation I had to go through, going into that man’s
Now going up to that jail…. Anything to humiliate me. All the things you wanted me to
escape by going to school.
Years ago, Professor Antoine told me that if I stayed here, they were
going to break me down to the nigger I was born to be. But he didn’t tell me that my aunt would
help them do it.'” p. 79 The only reason that Grant went to the jailhouse was because he was
devoted to his aunt, Miss Emma, and Vivian. When they ask him to do things he has no choice but
to do it. He more than just arrogant and overly prideful.
He is also very loyal to those whom he
cares about. If he didnt have that loyalty he wouldnt have gone to the jailhouse at all. He has
compassion for everyone in the quarter and understands how it must feel to have not been able to
leave from a place, meet new people, do new things, or further your education. He knows how
heavy the burden is and how hard it must be for Jefferson to take on the burden of stopping the
cycle black people had been repeating for generations. “We black men..
.stay here in the South and
are broken, or we run away and leave them alone to look after the children and themselves. So each
time a male child is born, they hope he will be the one to change this vicious circle–which he never
does. Because even though he wants to change it, and maybe even tries to change it, it is too heavy
a burden because of all the others who have run away and left their burdens behind…
. I can give
them something that neither .