A lesson before dying chapter 1
The passage I’m going to talk about comes from the first chapter of the novel « albd » written by the African American writer EJG. The author was born on a plantation in the 30ies and was brought up by his great aunt. Louisiana, the American historical background and strong black women have greatly influenced his work which have been rewarded by France’s highest literary honour:...
The novel is set in Louisiana at the end of the 40ies so at the time of segregation, both elements being extremely important in the novel.
The first chapter takes place in a courtroom during Jefferson’s trial, a young black man accused of robbery and 3 murders: 2 blacks and 1 white person. The passage I’m going to comment upon is Jefferson’s court appointed attorney’s speech. My analysis is composed of 2 parts: first I’ll speak about the dehumanising language used by the defense attorney and secondly I’ll focus on the rhetoric used in this speech and its weight.
So now let’s start with my first part. As part of his client’s so called defense, Jefferson’s white attorney argues that Jefferson is innocent because he is incapable of knowing right and wrong and so obviously lacks the intelligence to plan a robbery. In fact we can notice that he refers to Jefferson as a fool (p.7, l.5,6,7,9,10). So this means he begins to question his intelligence, hence what makes him a man, his status as a human being. Actually the defense attorney clearly makes a distinction between Jefferson and himself and so the jury when he says line 3-4 “when we civilised man, consider the male species has reached manhood”. This implies that for the attorney Jefferson is not a man and neither is he for the jury since he uses the pronoun ”we”. This status is further questioned line 7 to 9 when he says that a man (who is an intelligent being) would have known that something wrong would have