I thought that the book A Lesson Before Dying was all right overall. I think Ernest Gaines did a good job with the plot but the idea of the book was not to interesting to me. A book about a black man becoming a man on his way to the electric chair is a very dull plot to me. I give Gaines credit for making the book semi-interesting even though the plot was terrible. Personally after reading Things Fall Apart and Song of Solomon I was looking for a little more action in this book. Those two books were ten times better than A Lesson Before Dying so I can say that I was probably expecting too much.
A Lesson Before Dying has a superb depiction of the theme “you cant judge a book by its cover”. Grant went to help Jefferson with a notion that Jefferson was sewer trash and he would not learn anything from this situation. In the end Grant was wrong because he learned a lot from his short relationship with Jefferson. Grant had certain feelings for Jefferson he never had for a man before. They became real close friends and talked about a lot of things. I really like how they portrayed this theme throughout the book. In the book each character had their own characteristics and personality.
There was something special about each character in the book. Each of them had their strong points and weak points for example Grant was always running away from his problems. There were a lot of things in his life that he could not handle and he just wanted to run away. He didnt know what to do about Jefferson at first and wondered why he had to teach him. He didnt really know how to handle his job as teacher in the Quarter. He couldnt make his mind up about God so he just decided to leave it alone. Aunt Emma was a very strong character in the book.
She would do almost anything to help Jefferson before he died. She begged to the Guidrys on several occasion to help Jefferson feel more comfortable while he was in jail. She begged Grant for his help even though Grant did not want to help Jefferson. She got Mose Ambrose and Grant to finally work together to help Jefferson instead of always arguing. There were many strong characters in the book but there were also weak ones. This individuality of each character made the book very interesting because you could watch how each characters personality would clash with the others.
There were also some parts of A Lesson Before Dying that I did not like. They should have had more background on each of the characters. I never figured out where Tante Lou knew Aunt Emma from or where Grant met Vivian. These things are not necessary but they add to the story. I also think they could have gone into more detail about Grant and Lous relationship. I wanted to know what happened to Grants parents and just how close were they. There is a lot of background information in the book that remains a mystery to me. Overall I thought A Lesson Before Dying was an all right book.
It reminded me how my people were treated in America during the late 1940s. It was a realistic story that might have happened to anyone caught in that situation at that time period. The book made me think about how hard my people fought for me to get where I am now. Jefferson had to stand like a man for the whole town not just himself. He had to rebuke the notion that black people were hogs by becoming a man again and showing that to the community. He died with dignity and pride like a man should. For these reasons I have stated here and above I believe A Lesson Before Dying was an above average book.