Greetings, My New AP Lit Babies!
This week’s discussion will involve establishing personal connections with Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying.
To that end, there are several questions I’d like you to consider. Your original post must include answers to at least two of them.
A Lesson Before Dying
- All the characters in A Lesson Before Dying are motivated by a single word: “hog.” Jefferson’s attorney has compared him to a hog; Miss Emma wants Grant to prove that her godson is not a hog; and Jefferson at first eats the food she has sent him on his knees, because “that’s how a old hog eat.” How are words used both to humiliate and to redeem the characters in this novel?
- For all the book’s religious symbolism, the central character is a man without faith. Grant’s refusal to attend church has deeply hurt his aunt and antagonized Reverend Ambrose, whose religion Grant at first dismisses as a sham. Yet at the book’s climax he admits that Ambrose “is braver than I,” and he has his pupils pray in the hours before Jefferson’s death. What kind of faith does Grant acquire in the course of this book? Why does the Reverend emerge as the stronger of the two men?
- Grant believes that black men in Louisiana have only three choices: to die violently, to be “brought down to the level of beasts,” or “to run and run.” How does the way in which Gaines articulates these grim choices–and suggests an alternative to them–make A Lesson Before Dying applicable not only to Louisiana in 1948 but to the United States in 2011?
- From the manslaughter that begins this novel to the judicial murder at its close, death is a constant presence in A Lesson Before Dying. We are repeatedly reminded of all the untimely, violent deaths that have preceded Jefferson’s and, in all likelihood, will follow it. Why then is Jefferson’s death so disturbing to this book’s black characters, and even to some of its white ones? What does Jefferson’s death accomplish that his life could not?
That’s it for now. Your original post is due by 10:00pm on Wednesday, August 17th. Your response to at least two of your classmates’ posts is due by 10:00pm on Sunday, August 21st.
As always, I am here should you need me.