A lesson before dying

Earnest J. Gaines tackles the idea of what it means to be human in his book, A Lesson Before Dying.  He shows the transformation of a man who was wrongfully sentenced to death.  This man, Jefferson, describes himself through much of the novel as a hog.  However, it is with the support of his family, especially is godmother Miss Emma, and his community, in particular, the school teacher Grant, that he discovers what it means to be human.  Gaines shows us that it takes the encouragement of others and the will power of ourselves to fully realize our existence.  In this, we assert this existence in a number of ways.  Jefferson did so by “walking” to his death.  Becoming human is a unique process.  People, unlike animals, unlike hogs, have to ability to reason.  This goes beyond the simple, rational facets such as thinking and comprehending ideas.  In the beginning, Jefferson might have had these parts of reasoning, but it wasn’t until he discovered his true humanity that he found the other, deeper parts.  He learned to show the ones who loved him that he loved them in return.  He showed appreciation.  He showed pride.  He showed his feelings.  And with that, he showed he would die as a human being.

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