Theme Of Heroism In A Lesson Before Dying

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In the novel A Lesson Before Dying written by Ernest J. Gaines, there is an evident theme of heroism displayed throughout the story. Unlike many books, there are many levels of heroism and many different heroes. A Lesson Before Dying does not limit the idea of heroism. It is an extremely broad statement that goes beyond saving lives and coming to the rescue of someone in danger.

When the word ‘hero’ is put into perspective, an automatic thought that comes to mind is the iconic figures of Superman, Batman and Spiderman. The standard definition of the word ‘hero’ is, “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities”. In the novel, the definition of hero goes far past that. Grant describes it as, “A hero is someone who does something for other people”, which is a very general definition. Grant believes that heroes sacrifice themselves and their interests for the interests of other people. It is about helping other people for the sake of them, with no reward intended. Grant is also unlike the standard hero who focuses on the idea of independence and doing everything on his or her own, Grant’s inner hero only comes out when he interacts with Jefferson. This is why I believe that Jefferson and Grant are two of the primary heroes in the book.

Grant Wiggins is a school teacher and has an extremely selfish personality. For example when he has a bad day he will punish his students. At the start he does not demonstrate any qualities that a hero might have. There is a man named Jefferson who is sentenced to death by electrocution, Tante Lou and Miss Emma want Jefferson to die with dignity and they ask Grant to teach him that he is a man, not a hog. Grant is not too keen on the idea, “what can I do that you haven’t done the past 21 years?” Grant also thinks that Jefferson is already mentally dead and that he cannot raise the dead. He really does not want to follow through with this idea, as he has no hope for Jefferson that he can die with dignity. Things then start to change for Grant. When he first goes to visit Jefferson, he automatically declines Grant’s help. Jefferson believes that there is no point in caring about others if he’s going to die soon. Grant
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