Ernest J. Gaines is an African-American author, who was born during Segregation in America. In 1993, he published A Lesson before dying, a novel which he deals with the hardships of life during this period. Through the life of Jefferson, we will try to plea for equality between the races. He tells the story of a Black man wrongly accused for a crime he didn’t commit and who willhave to die for the sake of his community.
In this case, it’s debatable whether the author wanted to show Jefferson as a Christian figure, as the Savior of Black community?
To answer this question, we will on the one hand study the other characters of the novel, which help Jefferson to be a Christian figure, and on the other one, we will analyse the elements which show that Jefferson is theMessiah of the Black community.
In this novel, given that we are in a context of a man wrongly accused, we can observe that the other characters have a big influence on Jefferson.
First, we can study the main character who is also the narrator: Grant. The first chapters highlight the personality and the role of this man. He is an important person in the Black community because he is the teacher; heeducates, so as to make the difference between Black and White. At the beginning of the novel, he is very pessimistic, he is resigned : Jefferson is going to die because he is a Black man condemned by White jurors. Nevertheless, he plays an important role for Jefferson: he must educate him before dying, to make Jefferson aware of the fact that he is a man and not a “hog”: (Page 83) “You’re not ahog,” I said. “You’re a man.” It shows that Jefferson needs Grant to know that he is a man. He’s supposed to be Jefferson’s preceptor, but it looks like he doesn’t care. So, we can see that Jefferson is not really a Christian figure; he needs somebody to become it whereas Jesus was the Savior by his choice, alone. Moreover, we can observe that Grant isn’t very believer even if he read verses fromthe Bible in chapter 5, he finishes by “And on and on and on” (Page 34). One may ask whether Jefferson is really the Messiah when he needs Grant, a person who doesn’t believe in god, to die as a man.
Secondly, Miss Emma and Tante Lou are very important too. First, they are since the beginning, convincing that Jefferson has the capacity to become an important person, they believe in him, theyknow that he is innocent, we can see it in their attitude. In chapter 9, Miss Emma continues trying to talk to Jefferson even if he doesn’t answer: “What don’t matter?” He didn’t answer. “What don’t matter, Jefferson?” (Page 73). She is very determinated, she wants Jefferson to die as a man “I want the teacher make him know he’s not a hog, he’s a man” (Page 13). In spite of Henri Pichot’s reaction,who presents her idea as stupid “Let the law have him” “(Page 22) she stays determinated “The law got him!”(Page 22). Moreover, she used the verb “will”, it shows that she can do anything to arrive in her ends. She is very strong, in chapter one she is compared to an „oak” and she “follows his every moves”. So, to make the link, we can see that it is two characters who help Jefferson to become theSavior of the Black community, and they use Grant to do that. Jefferson can’t do that by himself, he’s not strong enough, he lost his faith. Is he really a Christian figure ?
However, lots of elements and also elements in the character of Jefferson are disturbing, and we suppose that Jefferson can be a Christian figure.
Jefferson has a lot of common points with Jesus Christ. He had beenwrongly accused because he didn’t kill the men and Jesus was wrongly accused too. Nevertheless, he didn’t try to protest and he accepted his sentence, just as Jesus did. Before the murder, he wanted to go in the “White Rabbit Bar and Lounge”, it’s a reference to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and it’s a comparison between Jefferson and Alice. He symbolises purity and innocence, and the bar his...