Books and Movies Reviews

A Lesson Before Dying

In A Lesson Before Dying, Grant Wiggins, an African American school teacher, finds himself being torn between "…two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings…" while living in the South. Grant is a very educated person, but is often frustrated by the way he is treated by white people throughout his town. While speaking with a prominent white person in town, he almost feels he has to dumb down his vocabulary just to fit in (48). In a community that is controlled and run almost exclusively by white people, Grant is expected to act in a certain manner because he is believed to be on a lower level because of his skin color. This belief that he is a lower being because of his skin color, as DuBois points out, causes a conflict among oneself; Grant knows he's educated and very smart, he is well aware of his situation, but is unsure about himself because other people don't always see him as a well educated African American who is trying to change the community for the better, but rather a Black person, and they treat him like a lower being because he's black instead of with the respect that he deserves.
Throughout A Lesson Before Dying, Grant both rejects and accepts the idea of having a double consciousness. He deals with the situation by working closely with a death row inmate named Jefferson. Through Jefferson, Grant attempts to resolve the struggle within himself by helping Jefferson "stand on his own two feet" even though white people throughout the community go as far as to place bets on Jefferson about whether or not he'll actually be able prove he's not an animal (229). Grant has a difficult time seeing himself the way he really is rather than how other townspeople (mainly white people) think he is, so when Jefferson does eventually stand on his own two feet, Grant understands that the "American white" conscious he feels is incorrect, and that you are what you believe…

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