A Lesson before Dying

Essay by cvd4311High School, 10th gradeA, March 2004

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Grant Wiggins has been teaching on a plantation outside Bayonne, Louisiana, for several years when a slow-witted man named Jefferson is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Jefferson claims he is innocent of the crime. He says he was on his way to a bar, but changed his mind and decided to tag along with two men who were on their way to a liquor store. When the men arrived to the store, the two men began arguing with the storeowner about putting their food on credit, and a shootout ensued. The storeowner and the two men died, and Jefferson remained at the scene of the crime. He was caught drinking liquor and had a hand full of money from the cash register. He was arrested and tried for murder. Jefferson's lawyer argues in court that Jefferson is nothing but a poor fool, hardly more than a hog, and was too stupid to plot out the hold up.

The jury quickly brings back a guilty verdict.

Upon hearing the lawyer's speech, Jefferson's godmother, Miss Emma, resolves to help Jefferson die like a man, not a hog. She asks Grant to help her, knowing that he will resist. Grant left many years prior to attend college, and he returned an educated man. He does not like the injustices done to his fellow black men, but he does not want to get involved in Jefferson's case. However, after considerable pressure from his aunt, Tante Lou, he agrees to try to help Jefferson. Grant, Miss Emma, and Grant's aunt go to visit Jefferson in his cell, and they discover that he too heard the lawyer's words and has taken them to heart. Silent and moody, Jefferson resists Grant's feeble attempts to reach him. The three visitors spend an uncomfortable hour in the...