Jefferson christ-like figure

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E rnest J. Gaines was born on a Louisiana plantation in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression. At age fifteen, Gaines moved to Vallejo, California, where he joined his parents, who had moved there during World War II. In Vallejo, Gaines discovered the public library. Since he could not find many books written about African-Americans, he decided to write his own. A few years later, heenrolled at San Francisco State University and took writing courses at Stanford University. Gaines published published several novels on the topic closest to his own heart: the black communities of Louisiana. The most successful of these was A Lesson Before Dying, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and, in 1993, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. This book highlights the tensioninherent in the lives of African-Americans during the 1940s with the Jim Crow laws, the racial segregation and racial violence. At that time, the Black’s community could be compared to christian community at its beginning: discriminated, oppressed and relinquished. Nevertheless there is a not insignificant different: christians people had a Messiah to save them, Jesus. Blacks had nobody, butthey tried to find one. Gaines shows us how simple guy can become an icon of hope. But can we say even so that Jefferson is a Christ-like figure? In one hand, we’ll see all the historical and biblical clues which are scattered all along the book, then we’ll study the wish of the Black community to find a Messiah.

To begin, the main and the most important clue that we notice at the firstreading because it’s the theme of the book, is that Jeff, an poor orphan was executed for something that he didn’t do. Indeed, Jefferson was wrongfully accused of robbing and murdering a white man and sentenced to death. This situation shows him as a martyr, in the same way as Saint Stephen, dead by stoning, Saint Blandina, impaled by a wild steer or Saint Lawrence “grilled” to death and inthe same way as Jesus, dead crucified like a criminal. A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce a belief, usually religious. Here, it’s worse. Jefferson is dead, not because of his belief, but because of the color of his skin. The miserable guy was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and because of he was black, he was condemned, before his trial,to die on the electric chair as a murderer.
His death was planed the 8th April, two weeks after Easter. Here the Bible becomes darker. According to Christian scriptures, Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Some Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day or Easter Sunday (also Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday), two days after Good Fridayand three days after Maundy Thursday, so historians agree to say that the Christ’s death day is the 7th April. We can suppose that the choice of this date is not trivial, and it adds a similitary between Jefferson and Jesus.
We can notice that Jefferson begins to open up to Grant around the Christmas period. He begins to speak with him and to discuss of his actual situation, of his thoughtof himself, and especially of his “Hog” statue. He seemed to have a real rebirth, during this time, which celebrates the Birth of Jesus, the Messiah.
In addition, we can compare the Stations of the Cross of Jesus to steps that Jefferson had to do as a man until his death:
|Jesus’ Stations of Cross |Jefferson’s Station of Cross|
|Jesus is condemned to death |Jefferson is called a hog |
|Jesus is given his cross |Jefferson is condemned to death |
|Jesus falls the first time |Jefferson is imprisoned...
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