Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J, Gaines is an interesting reading. I watched the movie and then read this novel, which is marked as ALL FAIRFAX READS. My expectation of the novel  and what it turned out to me after I read stands  far apart. It is an easy reading and nothing sophisticated. Not much of suspence and not thrill,. There is nothing extraordinatry about this book. So I am pretty curious why this book was selected to be a "ALL FAIRFAX READ". I have read many books that are far superior than this one. The other reason that I feel in this way, might be because of the way  I treated  the subject. However, eventually I realized the strength of the book lies in its message.

The story in a nutshell is about a black young man who was sentenced to  death for his part in a shoot out broad daylight burglary. Even though he was at wrong place, at the wrong time, but not guilty of the all charges, still the juries passed down capital punishment on him. This black young man's godmother couldnt stand when the defedant called Jefferson a 'hog'. It was  most humiliating and insulting remarks that cut to the consciousness of the Godmother.  Thus she entrusted the black teacher to change Jefferson  into a man and "on his final day, he would walk up to the chair as a man".  The strength of the story lies in its ability to project human spirit , endurance and redemption. At the teacher's insistance and instruction, Jefferson finally came to a sense. And he has changed the way the  white people would ever look at a blackman.

The black teacher and Jefferson teamed up to challenge the notion that black people are pathetic and they are no less than an animal. Finally, Jefferson was a changed man. he has restored his black dignity. and he was executed as a man, "He was strongest  man  in that crowded room"? Maybe  the story means a lot to black people, who have experienced racial discrimination in the hand of white men.

 In the end 'two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting  defying, the expected".

What I have learnt is that even when people know that  they are going to die  on a specified day, they still could do something on the remaining days of their lives.  That is very inspiritional and encouraging. This novel is acclaimed because it projects the juxtapostion of two extrem human characters, that is cruelty and kindess. The novel also exposes the sham of American justice system and its capital punishment, when an innocent person is put to death on charge of murder.