Racism in A Lesson Before Dying Essay

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A Lesson Before Dying is set in rural Louisiana in the 1940’s. The setting is ripe for the racism displayed in the novel. Ernest J. Gaines weaves an intricate web of human connections, using the character growth of Grant Wiggins and Jefferson to subtly expose the effect people have on one another (Poston A1). Each and every character along the way shows some inkling of being a racist. However, Paul is an exception. He treats everyone as if he or she is equal to him whether the person is black or white. In A Lesson Before Dying, author Ernest J. Gaines displays the different levels of racism during the 1940’s through his use of characterization. The author, Ernest Gaines, and the main character, Grant Wiggins, have much in common.…show more content…
Each man draws their drive from the people around them. The setting of the novel is a rural plantation in Louisiana in the Deep South. Most of the story takes place on Henri Pichot’s plantation. He is a wealthy influential man in Bayonne who can influence many decisions. Being set in the 1940’s before civil rights, the whites reigned supreme, and the blacks were still seen as inferior. Gaines uses characters such as Sheriff Guidry, Henri Pichot, and Mr. Joseph Morgan to demonstrate the white mentality towards African Americans (Poston A1). The white mentality causes many negative feelings. Folks says, “Part of Grant’s bitterness stems from his negative feelings about the black population in his hometown” (Folks B1). Grant is always mad and discouraged by the vicious cycle the blacks are put through. “The reader is able to gain insight into Grant’s thoughts and frustrations through his conversations with Vivian, his girlfriend. He feels trapped in his present situation” (Poston A1). The most racist characters in the novel are the whites. Paul is the exception to the stereotype. Paul does treat all African Americans with respect and compassion (Poston A1). He befriends Jefferson, Miss Emma and Grant. In the end of the novel, Paul offers his hand to Grant as a symbol of their friendship. No other white man in the novel would have dared to do such a thing. “Grant despises the way they still seem to be treated like slaves-especially when they are forced to
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