A Lesson Before Dying By Ernest J. Gaines

1419 Words Oct 21st, 2016 6 Pages
Aristotle uses five characteristics to define the tragic hero. A tragic hero should: be of noble birth, pass from fortune to misfortune due to some mistake or flaw, be good but fallible, pass from ignorance to knowledge, and finally their fate should cause fear and pity in the audience. In Ernest J. Gaines’s novel, A Lesson Before Dying, Jefferson conforms to four out five of the characteristics, and it is the quality that he doesn’t meet that leads to all of his problems in the first place. By meeting four out of the five characteristics, Jefferson meets Aristotle 's definition of a tragic hero.
Jefferson is not of noble birth, in fact in his culture his is not even average. The society in which A Lesson Before Dying takes place is one that refuses to give up its pre-Civil War ways. In Jefferson’s town the black population is still expected to live in what was once the slave quarters. The white population in the city also expects the black people to treat them as if they superior. The two populations are not equal.
Jefferson’s inequality is pointed out while he is on trial for the murder of Alcee Groupe. During closing arguments Jefferson’s attorney tells the jury that Jefferson is not a man, being careful to use the word “it” and “this” when referring to Jefferson. He calls Jefferson a fool explaining, “a fool is not aware of right and wrong” (7). Jefferson’s attorney also paints the picture of Jefferson not being capable of forming a plan due to his heritage. He…
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