In the novel, A Lesson Before Dying, By Ernest Gaines, the main character, Grant Wiggins gives a man meaning in his last days alive. Wiggins gives him a book to write his thoughts in, and helps him to realize that he is not a hog. He shows him that he is truly a good person, and that he should die with his head up, knowing that he led a worthy and honest life. Mr. Wiggins changed greatly through the story, from a cold school teacher to an open hearted and caring man.
This helped his relationship with others as well as Jefferson. Through his changing, he became the one man that Jefferson could trust.
In a rural town in Louisiana in the late 1940’s a poorly educated young black man, Jefferson, is in the wrong place at the wrong time: he is in a bar with two friends when they murder the white bartender. Jefferson is unfairly convicted of murder and sentenced to the electric chair by a white judge and jury. His defense lawyer, in an attempt to ward off the death sentence, labels him a “hog”–and it is this label that Jefferson’s godmother wants disproved. She enlists the help of a plantation school teacher, Grant Wiggins, who at first isnt too keen on the idea of helping a crook.
Wiggins agrees to talk with Jefferson only out of a sense of duty–he is an unhappy, angry man who dreamt of escape from his deprived childhood yet returned to his hometown after a university education to teach in the same one-room parish school he attended. Despite humiliation at the hands of the white sheriff, Jefferson’s lack of cooperation, and his own sense of futility and uncertain faith, Wiggins forges a bond with Jefferson that leads to wisdom and courage for both. At first, Jefferson sees himself as a hog, and nothing but a hog.
It takes Wiggins much time and strength to convince him that he should live his last days with pride and dignity. Jefferson looks at the entire situation as his fault and will only do what Miss Emma and Tante Lou see fit for him to do. If thats what they want, Jefferson said.
No, not what they want; what you want, says GrantIf thats what they want, Im gon die anyhow, says Jefferson.(p.135)
Wiggins begins his teaching as he has taught for years, which is not allowing it to change his life. However, as he continues to teach Jefferson, he not only speaks, but starts to listen and learn. Jefferson sees that he should let Wiggins into his life, and he starts to change. “I saw a slight smile come to his face, and it was not a bitter smile.
Not bitter at all.” A hog cant show emotions, but a man can. At this moment, he developed from a hog to a man. This is the focal point of the story, and from this point on, both men look at life completely differently. There is the epiphany of the story, where Mr. Wiggins realizes that the purpose of life is to help make the world a better place, and at that time he no longer minds visiting Jefferson and starts to become his friend.
Mr. Wiggins’ relationship with his aunt declined in this story, although it was never very strong. His aunt treated him like he should be a hog and always obey, yet she wanted him to make a hog into a man. His aunt was not a very nice person, she would only show kindness towards people who shared many of her views, and therefore was probably a very hard person to get along with. The way Mr. Wiggins regarded his relationships most likely would have been different were he white.
Mr. Wiggins feels, and rightly so, that several white men try to mock or make a fool of him throughout the story. This was a time of racial discrimination with much bigotry, so if the story took place in the present, it would be much different. In fact, there probably would have not even been a book because in the modern day, an honest and just .