Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Lesson Before Dying & selections from Joyce's Dubliners Period 6

Quan T6
Matt S6
Simon M6

Sunday Dec 2: Read to pg 102 (up to ch 14) ALBD

Wednesday Dec 5: Blog Session 1 ends ALBD

Saturday Dec 8: Read pgs 103 – 177 (ch 14 – 22) ALBD

Tuesday Dec 11: Blog session 2 ends ALBD

Saturday Dec 15: Read to finish (ch 23 – 31) ALBD

Monday Dec 17: Blog session 3 ends ALBD

JJ short stories TBA


Quan T 6 said...

The title A Lesson Before Dying seems to has a deeper meaning than I thought. At first I thought the story to be about a protagonist who undergoes a revelation or discovers divine insight before his death. For this to occur, the story should be told in a first person narrative from the dying protagonist’s point of view. This book surprised me because the story is told through the eyes of Grant rather than Jefferson, who is convicted guilty of the crime. It seems that there is a much deeper meaning to this title than there appears. Perhaps this foreshadows that the people involved in sending Jefferson to be electrocuted will be the ones who learn this “lesson”.

Just from reading the first sentence, I noticed that Grant seems to contradict himself a lot. He claims that “I [he] WAS NOT THERE, yet I [he] was there” (3). Grant further continues to contradict his own words. The author portrays Grant as an unreliable source of information. As a reader, I had trouble believing in his statements.

Grant, compared to Tanta Lou and Miss Emma, seems to show the least concern for Jefferson. It made me wonder why the story would be seen through his eyes. Any thoughts?

A reoccurring image within the book is a “hog”. It is first mentioned when the defendant states that he would “soon put a hog in the electric chair” (8) than put Grant. Although he is the defendant, he seems to be degrading Grant as a person. Later, Miss Emma claims that she does not “want no hog to go set in that chair. I [she] want[s] a man to go set in that chair” (20). Instead of sinking low by saving Jefferson’s life by any means, Miss Emma seems to value pride over life. She would rather her son die as a man rather than a hog. I believe she is heroic because she decides it is better for Jefferson to live a short life as man as opposed to living a long life as a “hog”.

Simon M 6 said...

I agree with Quan’s thoughts on the title. In fact, I thought of the very same ideas as he did. I also thought that the book would be very similar to Tuesdays with Morrie, another book that talks about life lessons. However, Jefferson, to me is not a “Morrie” type of person. Would the lesson then be learned through the protagonist Grant who does not even want to be with Jefferson? Quan’s idea of the people punishing Jefferson learning the lesson is also an interesting look at it. We’ll find out as we read more of the book.

In response to Quan’s question about the story’s perspective through Grant’s eyes, I think that Grant as well as Jefferson will fortify their mentalities. It may relate to many of the books we have read in class; the protagonist undergoes a change in which he finds the answer to his long awaited question. While Grant lacks the spirit to help Jefferson now, he may turn into a completely different person near the end of the novel.

Gaines begins every chapter with the first few words capitalized such as, “TWO THINGS HAPPENED at the school…” (51). Gaines may have used this to put emphasis on a certain topic. One random idea that comes to my mind is that it might symbolize problems of the world. Problems are EASY to start, and the rest of the chaos flows right through. Another idea might be that it is HARD to start fixing the problem, but once over that initiation, the following process will be easier. Any ideas on this?

Quan T 6 said...

You brought up a good point about the capitalization of the first few words of each chapter. I did not realize that there may be any significance at first. I do not think that Gaines uses capitalization to introduce the problems of the world. Capitalization is used to place emphasis on the words. They seem to serve as a transition between events in the book. They also create a setting of where the chapter begins. Gaines’ use of capitalization seems to suggest that Grant is certain of his environment while he narrates the story. There is no doubt in Grant’s mind that his recollection of the past is flawless and truthful.

While reading this book, I came across a question I was never able to answer. What race is Grant? I don’t believe that Gaines ever specified Grant’s race. This is important because this book takes place in a time where segregation of races is allowed. Racism stems from the segregation of races. Therefore, racism may have played a vital role in the court decision of Jefferson as well as Grant’s uncaring attitude towards Jefferson.

Grant as a character acts immature for his age. I find that his occupation as a teacher ironic because Grant seems like he needs to learn rather than teach. He is “tired of feeling committed” (29) to his work. While the dilemma regarding Jefferson is most important at the time, he cares only to see Vivian. He asks Vivian to elope with him. Instead of dealing with the issues at hand, he wishes to retreat from them. Vivian, in contrast to Grant, is mature and organized. She tells Grant to “always come to me [Vivian]” (31) whenever he has a problem.

Religion is mentioned often in this book. At one point, Gaines describes that there “were color prints of Jesus: The Last Supper and Christ knocking on a door” (34). Interestingly enough, Grant’s aunt says “‘Food there if you want it. Or you can go back where you had supper last night’” (35). “Supper” seems to be symbolic. Since Grant is Christian I believe that this theory is strong. The Last Supper portrays Jesus, who predicts that he will soon suffer after his meal. It was also his last meal prior finishing his job for God. Also, Jesus gives his followers symbols to remember the body and blood he sacrificed on behalf of mankind. Perhaps Grant will follow Jesus’ footsteps. Grant may soon suffer for some reason. He may also influence others enough to leave a lasting impact on their lives so that Grant will be remembered for his sacrifice. Any other ideas regarding religion?

Simon M 6 said...

I too have questioned Grant’s race. I believe that he is black. He is a teacher of black students in a black community. There was “not a public telephone anywhere that I could use before reaching Bayonne” (25). As Quan stated, this is a period of racism and segregation. This public telephone that Grant refers is perhaps a designated “black telephone”. All others are probably off limits for the colored. Grant also thinks to himself, “There were one or two nightclubs for colored, but they were not very good” (25). This thought also implies that he is colored.

I agree with Quan’s statement about religion. I see his point. This symbol that Grant gives out is most likely the lesson of dignity that is to be learned. However, I’m not quite sure about Grant acting as a sacrifice. True, Grant portrays the savior-like Jesus, but is there a reason for a “Last Supper” if there are no signs of sacrifice?

I was wondering about the relationship between Grant and Jefferson. Was Jefferson one of Grant’s students? Because Grant seems religious, his attitude towards Jefferson may have changed because of the incident. Some religious men do not associate themselves with sinners.

Matthew S. 6 said...
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Matthew S. 6 said...

To respond to what Simon was saying about the relationship between Jefferson and Grant. I believe Jefferson is a student to Grants since Grant is trying to help change Jefferson in a positive way. For example, when they first met Jefferson, Grant was very gloomy and withdrawn with how Jefferson was. Grant is a bit hypocritical and somewhat depressed and is “tired of feeling committed” (29). I believe he is bitter because of how racism has taken its toll in his community so he lacks a bit of faith in everything around him. However, he tries to change Jefferson so he doesn’t see things as negative as he does. What I don’t understand is how Grant can change other people when he himself needs to change.

Mr. G said...

Quan T6
Matt S6
Simon M6

Hey boys, considering (by your schedule) that you should be at the halfway point in yr blogging, this is a little pep talk. I'd say by this weekend you should really catch up to the pace.

Quan, nice length and depth, but you need about 5-8 more posts like this (as a minimum) for the half way point. Matt and Simon, please use this as a guidline for length as well.

I'm interested in what you are all writing about, but need to see more.

Quan T 6 said...

Since it has been established that it is highly probable to assume that Grant is black, I agree with Matt that he is bitter about racism in society of that time period, but there seems to be a deeper cause of the bitterness. Although Grant resents racism; I believe that Grant, like a child, will complain when things do not proceed as he wishes. When his students do not behave to his liking, Grant will simply punish them to get to remain obedient. At one point, the superintendent, Dr. Joseph comes for a school visit to test the quality of the school. He is pleased with the results, so Grant begins requesting school supplies. Grant becomes silent when his wishes are rejected. He then complains that the books his students use are “hand-me-downs from the white schools” (57). Grant only complies with Dr. Joseph because he holds higher authority. Grant obeys Dr. Joseph as though he is a child obeying his parent or elder.

Simon, Matt is right. Grant is Jefferson’s teacher. When Miss Emma visits Jefferson, she tells Jefferson that she’s brought “Professor Wiggins, your [his] teacher” (74).

Matt, I agree with you. As stated before, Grant seems to be too much of a child to be a teacher. Instead of teaching, he should be learning like his students.

Responding to Simon:
Although there is no life-threatening sacrifice, Grant sacrifices a part of his personal time for the sake of Jefferson, Miss Emma, and Tanta Lou. However, I do agree with you that Grant may not fully portray Jesus. Further reading made me believe that Jefferson may be a physical representation of Jesus. He refuses to eat the “supper” from Miss Emma. This might suggest that Jefferson does not wish to suffer just yet. Jefferson will eventually suffer because he is doomed to face the electric chair. Another way of viewing this is that Jefferson does not care to live anymore because it is meaningless. After all, Jefferson “knelt down on the floor and put his head inside the bag and started eating, without using his hands” (83) as though he was a hog. How do you view Jefferson?

Simon M 6 said...

Racism does play a major role in the story. I agree that Grant responds in the same way to Dr. Joseph as his students do to him. It is because of authority and race as well. Dr. Joseph becomes angry when Grant requests for supplies. His mood changes from complements to criticism. Then a problem about hygiene is brought up. Grant states that “some of these children have never seen a toothbrush before…” (57). Grant knows how the world works. He knows that whites have more authority than blacks during the time.

I agree with both of the ways you view Jefferson Quan. Because of the way my mind works, I would understand Jefferson not caring more than the religious allusion. Why does Jefferson join the group of robbers anyway? I thought that Jefferson was an obedient and innocent child, and thus having condemned to death, lost any will to fight. Quan, you brought up the image of a hog again with the quote in your last paragraph. Hog is used to both justify and deface Jefferson. Back in the first chapter, Jefferson’s attorney says that he “would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this” (8). Here, the attorney is trying to justify that nothing would come from killing an intelligent man. This comparison at the same time portrays blacks as low, inferior animals.

“He had said the same thing the year before, and he had called me Higgins then too. And the year before that he had said the same thing, but he had called me Washington then. At least he was getting closer to my real name” (56). I believe that this passage foreshadows a change in the respects towards blacks, or at least Grant. He is getting closer to be called by his real name, Wiggins. A name signifies a man, not an animal such as a hog. However Higgins is not Grant’s real name, and therefore he is not a complete man yet.

Jefferson on the other hand, falls to eating like an animal. In a way this can signify man as well as animal. Having not eaten for a period of time, taking food is what both man and animal perform. He does not eat any corn, which Jefferson says that “hogs eat” (82). Grant even says “You’re not a hog, you’re a man” (83). Again here is another comparison between hog and man. Are there any other similarities between them?

Grant’s attitude towards Jefferson seems to have changed from the beginning of the novel. He does not complain as much as he did. Jefferson is more open to others now as well.

Quan T 6 said...

Simon, you bring up an interesting point about when you stated that Grant is not a complete man yet. I agree with you that the passage foreshadows a change in respect towards Grant. Since Grant still acts childish, I believe that Grant will become a man by the end of the book. It is possible that Grant will become a man after learning the lesson. Being without a name reminds me of Raymond Bario’s poem, “Plum Plum Pickers”. In that poem, Manuel becomes a true man after he steps up against the oppressing force, Roberto. Like Manuel, Grant’s name is not known by the higher authority. Grant will become a man when he stops being immature and indecisive. However, this brings up an even more interesting question. What qualities define “man”? It would be unethical to believe that one must act rebellious and bold to be a “man”, but this seems to be the in both this book and “Plum Plum Pickers”.

Simon, I believe you made an error in suggesting that “nothing would come from killing an intelligent man”. I personally believe that nothing would come from killing a hog. When the defense attorney says that he would rather put a hog in the electric chair, he is degrading Jefferson. In a way, the defense suggests that Jefferson is not worth the trouble of being placed in the electric chair. The defense attorney’s statement is an interesting one. The statement’s purpose is to save Jefferson’s life, but ironically slaughters Jefferson as a person. This brings us back to the question: Is it better to die with pride or to live with humility?

When Vivian comes to visit Grant, he seems to have matured from being a child to being a young adult. Grant is obsessively infatuated with Vivian. We see that Grant is able to maintain a relationship with Vivian; however this relationship is similar to a relationship which a person who has just become an adult would hold. Grant and Vivian plan names for their future children as they make love in the field. Prior to this, Grant suggested that Vivian should elope with him. I do not understand how Grant can possibly act so childishly, but think of having children. If Grant cannot even deal with his own problems at hand, how can he possibly be able to manage children? Overall, Grant seems to have matured from the beginning as Simon has said.

Matthew S. 6 said...

I agree with Simon in the previous post where he claims Grant’s attitude towards Jefferson seems to have changed from the beginning of the novel because of how he does not complain as much as he did. Jefferson is more open to others now as well. I believe Grant is maturing just like what you both said and is being able to mature and be more like an adult because of the changes that is occurring with him and the people around him. Grant learns to love something other than himself and to strive for change. But, Gaines does not suggest that because Grant’s attitude improves, he will be able to effect great change however he does not even suggest that Grant’s attitude improves entirely. So when Quan said that he believes Grant will become a full man at the end of the story, I disagree.

To answer Quan’s question of, Is it better to die with pride or to live with humility? I believe it would be better for Jefferson to live with humility, I believe it would be better for him to live and go through change so that he lives without humility. Grant helps Jefferson to make a positive change. He doesn’t look at Jefferson as a hopeless stranger, or ridicule him as someone who tries to make Grant feel guilty, but instead Grant fights for Jefferson’s salvation. Grant attempts to heal Jefferson’s pain. He believes that Jefferson can stop symbolizing the troubles of the black community and start symbolizing positive change.

I believe with all the maturing Grant is doing, he can in turn use his own experiences to help Jefferson in a positive way as well. In addition, we see more examples of how much Grant is changing into an adult with all the things he is doing such as helping the community and trying to help Jefferson make a positive change and caring about others rather than himself.

Simon M 6 said...
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Simon M 6 said...

I believe that one should die with pride as well as live with humility. Dying with a bad reputation will leave future generations to mock you. It will stay there until you are forgotten for the sin committed. It is also important to stay alive. As long as one survives in the world, good events are bound to come. The sinner can repent and change as Matt said. By living, instead of being sentenced to death, one can do a lot of good. In Jeff’s case, it doesn’t seem likely that he can go on parole. Grant is there so that he is mentally ready to face the electric chair with pride.

I agree with Quan about how his relationship with Vivian aids Grant’s growth. Yes, he may be a bit unfit to handle others’ problems, but in the process, he is also helping himself. I also found a quote to back up Quan’s question earlier, don’t know if you guys care. “I’m still trying to figure out how a man should live. Am I supposed to tell someone how to die who has never lived?” (31). Grant has to find meaning in his own life first. I believe that he slowly finds this meaning through teaching Jefferson and his moments with Vivian.

I also want to know why Jeff is afraid of Miss Emma. Was there a deep history between the two before the plot started? Jeff “was quiet, looking up at the ceiling but not seeing it [drumstick]”. I think that it is because Miss Emma is too worried and overprotective. She complained that Jeff should not die as a hog, but as a man with pride. She wants to push pride into him to the extent it will overflow into the community. Perhaps Jeff may think that Emma only wants to have better status after his death.

Matthew S. 6 said...

I answer Simon’s question, Jefferson is not only afraid of Emma but the community. The whole community shuns Jefferson as an outcast except for Grant. Everyone looks down on Jefferson as a hopeless stranger which I mentioned earlier.

Jefferson does change with Grant’s help, however. He begins to believe in his own worth, and he realizes his life has a symbolic importance for his community. Jefferson becomes brave and diligent, and his journal reveals more in depth details about him, showing that even an uneducated man like himself can be intelligent and thoughtful. “I want to show them the difference between what they think I am and what I can be” (Jefferson, P.170).

There is something I do not understand however. The church symbolizes the hope that society will change. Miss Emma, Tante Lou, and Reverend Ambrose believe that God helps them and they use their belief to comfort themselves in the face of prejudice and injustice. But, why do they treat Jefferson with such disrespect and pity if they themselves pray for something else to happen to them?

Quan T 6 said...

Matt, you are gravely mistaken if you believe that Jefferson is seen as a hopeless stranger. The whole reason Grant continues visiting Jefferson is because the church ladies (Miss Emma, Tanta Lou) and Reverend Ambrose encourages Grant to visit Jefferson. They do not treat Jefferson with disrespect. Jefferson treats himself with disrespect when Miss Emma and Reverend Ambrose visit him in jail. After all, Miss Emma who brought food and “a shirt too, a pretty shit” (121) Jefferson asks Miss Emma to bring “corn for a hog” (122). He repeats this statement numerous times until Miss Emma finally hits him for the degrading act. Miss Emma and Reverend Ambrose do not show disrespect to Jefferson. They wish to make a believer out Jefferson. By doing so, they hope Jefferson will find something to hope for.

At the end of Chapter 14, Grant and Vivian are thinking of names for their future children. Grant is unsure of whether he wants his children to “grow up here” (109). Is there any specific reason why he feels this way? I believe that Grant is tired of his current life style. He wishes to run away from it all and start life anew with Vivian. This might explain why he pressures Vivian to leave with him so much.

In the beginning of Chapter 15, Vivian first mentions of her family life. She “married a dark-skinned boy while attending Xavier University” (111). After the wedding “her family had nothing to say to her husband and hardly anything to say to her” (112). When Vivian’s first child was born, the family also ignored the child as well as Vivian. After the separation between Vivian and her husband, there was still no restoration of connection between Vivian and her family. There seems to be a dividing line within the black community. Vivian, who is a mulatto, is completely neglected after she marries a darker skinned man.

Simon M 6 said...

I agree that they are not the ones disrespecting Jefferson, but it is him that is at fault. As Quan stated, Emma and Tante and Ambrose all treat Jeff with respect; they bring him food, new clothes, and try to cheer him up in various ways. Grant’s reason for visiting Jeff is Vivian too. “It’s she who keeps me coming here. Not your nannan, not my aunt. Vivian. If I didn’t have Vivian, I wouldn’t be in this damn hole” (130). Vivian is a strong driving for Grant to stay in town as well as visit Jefferson. Jefferson is the one who is disrespectful; he doesn’t answer to Miss Emma or even look at her. Matt may have taken the slapping as the disrespect given to him. However, I believe that is justified due to Jeff’s attitude.

Grant and Vivian think of names for their future children, but are Vivian’s current children ever mentioned? I’m guessing that they hold no importance to Grant, as all he wants is Vivian, not her children. Any ideas? As for Quan’s question, I believe that the oppressed black community is what Grant doesn’t want for his children. Having grown up in such an era, maybe he doesn’t want his children to experience the same hardships. He wants to run away to a better community for his future.

In that same chapter, when Grant and Vivian come home, the church ladies arrived too. They question Vivian about her background and religion. Tante Lou asks questions: “How about your own folks?” (114), “You go to church?” (114), or “You go’n leave your church?” (114). Vivian is catholic and a mulatto. Earlier in the book, mulattos were compared to darker skinned people. The mulatto community is supposedly higher ranked than the blacks. This dividing line is also recognized by Tante Lou when she says “they don’t like dark-skin people” (114). After long interrogation, the church ladies conclude that Vivian is a “lady of quality” (116). They constantly repeat that she is a quality woman as she leaves. It is because she is catholic and believes in God, thus sharing many believes with the church ladies. She goes to church every Sunday and earns the respect of fellow religious members.

Quan T 6 said...

I agree with Simon that Vivian’s current children hold no significance to Grant or the story. The children’s’ existences only seem to serve as a memento of Vivian’s past relationship with the dark skinned man. These children are the only things tying Vivian down from further pursuing her relationship with Grant. Vivian refuses to lose custody of her children. This shows that Vivian is a good mother and it may also show that Vivian is unwilling to let go of her past.

In Chapter 17, there is finally a change in the relationship between Grant and Jefferson. Grant notices that Jefferson “needed [Grant], and he wanted [Grant] here, if only to insult [Grant]” (130). I find this interesting because the first time they connect happens to be through anger and rage. During this point, Jefferson had insulted Vivian to provoke Grant. Instead of releasing his anger physically, Grant “rubbed [his] fist with [his] left hand, and gradually [Grant] began to relax” (130). Grant displays maturity at this point. He does not resort to physical violence. In a relaxed and calm manner, he explains that Vivian is the reason why he comes to visit Jefferson. I find this scene important because it is one of few times where Grant actually acts maturely. Vivian’s existence seems to have caused Grant to grow up. Further in this passage, Jefferson states “‘manners is for the live’” and “‘food for the living, too”’ (130). It is obvious that Jefferson still does not consider himself to be among the living. He already considers himself to be a dead man. Although his statements are negative, Jefferson has come a long way since the beginning of the book. Now he actually begins to express his feelings and issues in a subtle manner.

In Chapter, Jefferson asks an appealing question. He says “‘that’s when He was born, or that’s when He died” (138). Grant is referring to Jesus Christ at this moment. I find this passage appealing because Jefferson is willing to discuss religion with Grant, who does not care for religion. Grant answers Jefferson’s question and further develops the conversation saying that Easter is “‘when they nailed Him to the cross’” (138).
As I have mentioned in the past, Jefferson may be a physical representation of Jesus. Perhaps this will foreshadow Jefferson’s death to be on Easter as well. Once again Jefferson has made advancement in his relationship with Grant. He now speaks freely of religion.

Simon M 6 said...

Grant also notices that Jefferson “had lost some weight. What had been a round, smooth face when he first came here was beginning to show some bone structure. His eyes were still bloodshot” (138). This shows that Jefferson has already started his march towards death. Soon after, Grant questions Jefferson about obligation and love. Jeff, however, replies and says that he is not a “youman” (139) –translated into human. I agree with Quan that there is a change in both characters as well as the conversation topics. Jeff is “the one go’n have to sit down” (139). This pun is sarcastic. Grant says that Emma has a place to sit out in the dayroom, and Jeff replies that he is the one that is going to sit—that is, in the electric chair. Grant has also come over a great change since the beginning. He doesn’t “want to hurt those [he loves]. [He] wants to help those people as much as [he] can” (129). In this moment, Grant talks maturely and seems to have learned a bit about living as a man. He knows now, and tells Jeff, “to live as well as I can every day and not hurt people. Especially people who love me, people who have done so much for me, people who have sacrificed for me” (129). Because Grant learns a bit about life, he can teach Jefferson how to live life well, conquering his previous problem of not knowing how to live as a man.

Also, the topic of Jesus comes up within their conversation. The executors were “fattening [Jeff] up for Christmas. Kill him at Christmastime” (140). A while back, Quan brought up the allusion to the Last Supper. Jefferson attempts to teach this to Miss Emma too, on page 112. Jesus eats his last supper before he is crucified. Jeff, a representation of Jesus, knows that when he eats his all, the only thing that follows is death.

In chapter 19, Jefferson’s relationship with Jesus is hinted once again. “After ‘Silent Night,’ the choir sang ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’” (147). This is foreshadowing Jeff’s fate. Jeff’s early stages after conviction are full of silence. He was silent and would barely talk to anyone, including Grant, who he talks most openly to as of right now. Now, after that stage is over, the plot heads to Bethlehem. Bethlehem is the setting of Nativity. Coming out from silence, Jeff will emerge as a savior, one who will represent the black community with pride.

Matthew S. 6 said...

I agree with Quan about the relationship between Grant and Jefferson. Gaines does cast Jefferson as a Christ figure as Quan stated earlier, a man to whom people look for their own salvation. In the beginning of the novel it talks about Jefferson�s unjust conviction and his friends� attempts to help him die with human dignity. However, now, he begins to believe in his own worth and realizes how much he impacts the community and how he can change his life to live with humility as long as he is alive.

Even though Grant has changed a lot, he is still afraid and withdrawn from some people, and he is still sarcastic and angry. �It doesn�t matter anymore. Just do the best you can. But it won�t matter� (Grant, P.142). He says this to Jefferson about the ideas of changing the community for the better. Grant just doesn�t believe anything will ever happen because no matter what happens or the changes that occur from everyone, one thing stays the same, the community.

Grant�s character development shows how great personal and societal improvement is possible, but no quick fix will help a racist community. From the beginning of the novel, he feels rage at the whites for treating him badly and rage at himself for taking the treatment lying down. Even with all his accomplishments such as being in college and being an educated man and his maturing stage of his life, white people still consider him inferior, despite the changes in Grant. I would like to ask your opinions on the racist community and if you guys believe it will ever change by the end of the novel.

Quan T 6 said...

Answering Matt’s question:
Great change occur over a long periods of time. The book is entitled A Lesson Before Dying; therefore by the time Jefferson dies, everyone will have learned a lesson. Jefferson’s death will probably raise awareness for change, but not actual change. Awareness is important because it initiates change. The racist community will become aware of the issue and eventually change to something more equal.

Referring back to Simon:
I agree that Jefferson will emerge as a savior. He has come a long way since the start of the book. It will be surprising to see how Jefferson will bring a miracle just as Jesus is claimed to have done. Since Jesus was reborn, how do you think Jefferson will be reborn?

Also in Chapter 19, I noticed a particular interesting passage. After Reverend Ambrose says the prayers, the audience says “Amen”. During this time, Miss Emma says it “louder than anyone, and she was looking directly at [Grant]” (146). Miss Emma seems to be directing it towards Grant because he is not as religious and she wishes him to be. When Grant says “Amen”, he probably says it because he feels obligated to, not because he agrees with Reverend Ambrose. Grant, although Christian, seems inclined to be an atheist.

Later in that chapter, Grant brings up a fascinating topic. He states that nothing has changed within the community. Grand “had heard the same carols all [his] life, [and had] seen the same little play, with the same mistakes in grammar” (151). He continues by saying that “the minister had offered the same prayer as always” (151). This idea is further continued because Grant claims that “the same people wore the same old clothes and sat in the same places” (151). This passage tells the reader that Grant is aware of the consistency of no change within his community. He believes that everything will remain the same year after year. Although “Vivian said things were changing,” (151) Grant wonders “where were they changing?” (151). I believe Vivian will eventually be correct because the people will eventually be tired of their situation. The call for change will come when a person finally stands up and takes upon the challenge. In this book, I believe that Grant must be the one who will end the chain of no change. I believe this because Grant is different from the rest of the community. He does not aspire to God for all his answers. Perhaps this difference in moral standings of Christianity will spark a change in community.

Simon M 6 said...

I agree with Quan’s answer to Matt. Since Jefferson is seen as a representation of Jesus, he will bring about change after death. Jesus’ death was the signal for people to come to sense and start changing. I believe Jefferson will have a similar effect.

Physically, Jefferson might be reborn as a white man. As of the moment, white men have authority and say in the world. He will be able to influence society in ways a black man cannot. If he was to be reborn as a black man, he may bring about a wave of influential changes, but under this racist community, we never know if anything will happen. Metaphorically, the black community will be endowed by Jefferson’s pride (his rebirth in them).

Expanding on my previous topic of the relationship between Jeff and Jesus, chapter 20 supplies certain allusions to further acknowledge the similarity. In the chapter, we finally find out Jefferson’s execution date; “it had to be before or after Easter. It couldn’t happen during Lent” (156). This is the sheriff explaining why it is on the date it is. He told Grant why, but “he did not want to go on” (156). The judges or cabinet know how similar Jefferson is to Jesus. They do not want to further imply any religious symbol towards the townspeople. Easter is the day Jesus died, and therefore if any execution were to be on it, religious people will be offended (or at least have some reaction). Another allusion is when “twelve white men say a black man must die” (157). Twelve white men, twelve apostles, served the Christ figure in some way. Gaines uses this similarity to show that Jefferson is slowly transforming into this Christ-like figure, to teach society of its mistakes. Because the black community is so religious, maybe they will find a significant meaning through Jefferson’s execution.

Quan T 6 said...

I completely agree with Simon’s points. I also saw the connection between the twelve white men with the twelve apostles. Grant brings up an interesting idea in that same passage. He questions the definition of absolute justice because “twelve white men say a black man must die, and another white man sets the date and time without consulting one black person” (157). According to Grant, white men always claim that they seek justice, but it is simply ridiculous to assume that all white men have the right and power to determine the future of a black man. It is preposterous to believe that one race can assume the position of God for another race.

How do you think justice is viewed in this society? How can anyone let a group of stranger decide the one’s own fate? This system of justice does not seem fair at all!

In Chapter 21, Grant is venting off at Vivian because he feels over-burdened after drinking some alcohol. He feels that everyone is expecting too much out of him. Miss Emma wants him to make Jefferson a man and create a change in society. I find it funny how begins expressing his honest inner thoughts after drinking alcohol. Perhaps this suggests that people speak absolute truth when they are under the influence of alcohol. Grant states that “‘black men have failed to protect our women since the time of slavery’” (166). They all remain silent in the south or run away from their problems. Therefore, “‘each time a male child is born, they hope he will be the one to change this vicious cycle” (167). None of the males gather enough courage to cause change because it is “too heavy a burden” (167) since all the previous males before them all left more burdens. Once again, Vivian eases Grant’s worries by explaining that “‘it’s up to Jefferson’” (167) to become a man.

Quan T 6 said...

At last! In Chapter 22, there is a connection to The Last Supper. Jefferson wants a “‘whole gallona vanilla ice cream’” (170). Apparently this gallon of ice cream will be Jefferson’s “last supper” (170). Ice cream is a random, but interesting choice. Perhaps Jefferson chooses it because he does not get to enjoy its sweet flavor as often as he would like. Jefferson will make sure he gets the most out of his “last supper” before he suffers to become the savior of his black community.

This passage is also important because Jefferson becomes much more expressive of his feelings and inner thoughts. He now feels comfortable enough to share his desires with Grant. Grant is happy now that Jefferson “smiled now because he had something pleasant to look forward” (170-171).

Afterwards, Grant tells Jefferson that “‘Stella had her baby’” (171). This is fascinating because the name Stella stands for star. I believe that Stella refers to the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus. She also just had a child recently. This child might also show a connection to Jesus. When Jesus was born, a new star appeared. Three wise men came bearing gifts. Maybe the same will happen for Stella and her child.

In another passage, racism is seen as Grant decides to buy Jefferson a radio. The white woman tries to persuade Grant to buy the floor model. Grant insists on buying a new radio sealed in its box. The white woman, on the other hand wishes to get rid of the floor model insisting that she will place it in a box and lowering the price by one dollar. This is irritating because I cannot believe the woman would try selling a used product. It makes me wonder if should would do the same if Grant was a white man. Any ideas?

The woman only becomes more infuriating because she makes Grant wait fifteen minutes to come back with a new radio. Also, she “stood there about ten minutes” (176) talking to another white woman who came in to browse and talk. I think Gaines does well in creating a scenario featuring racism. The woman’s attitude definitely aggravated me when I read this. This passage is important because Grant stands up against racism. He does not fall to the demands of the white woman, who tried to sell him a used produce. Grant takes a stand for his rights. I believe that little acts like these will bring about great change for the black community because it shows Grant that it is acceptable to fight against injustice regardless of how simple the matter may be.

Simon M 6 said...

I think that the justice is based upon the racist white society of the government. There is a crime. Someone has to be punished, and that’s Jefferson, a black person. Using video surveillances, wouldn’t the government be able to see that Jefferson takes no part in the crime? I also believe this is unfair. However, the world is not fair. One person’s happiness is stolen from another—that’s how the world works.

I agree with your points Quan. I feel as alcohol is a resource Grant uses to exert all his stress and true feelings. In chapter 21, Grant explains to us about the workings of black men in black society. As Quan states, black men run away and thus their families are troubled. This is the reason why Tante Lou and Miss Emma want Jefferson and Grant so much. They finally have someone to save them, or someone who can handle all the burden. Jefferson, being a Christ-like figure, is able to handle these burdens and purge them from his family. Grant however, would “have the strength if [he] had God” (158). He is still a bit off from Jeff in terms of a significant figure because he does not go to church. This is ironic because that is not the way Miss Emma and Tante Lou view it. They still think that Grant is the higher up one who must pull Jefferson to salvation.

Why are Tante Lou and Irene Cole cold towards Vivian at Miss Emma’s house? “She felt [Vivian was] interfering with something that belonged to her” (163). Could it have something to do with Grant? Tante Lou seems fairly disappointed with Grant, which could have an effect on his girlfriend. Perhaps it could be that Vivian is a mulatto and therefore closer to whites, the source of Emma’s pain (well, they sentenced Jefferson to death). Any ideas?

Simon M 6 said...

I also noticed Jefferson’s moment of happiness. He actually smiled, “and it was not a bitter smile” (170). I agree with Quan that this is his “last supper” as it “would be on that last day” (171). Because Jefferson smiled, it shows that he has undergone a significant change. He is ready to be a savior now. He wants food, human food, not corn or any other food for hogs. It is this small moment when he shows his true feelings because it’s the first good thing that happened to him since he was jailed. Notice that this is happening on Friday, the day he and Jesus die, if that holds any significance.

About Stella’s child, I agree with Quan about Mary and the star in the sky. This can refer back to the statement made earlier about Jefferson’s revival (reborn). Perhaps this child is able to take on Jefferson’s path and continue to help change the community.

The scene in the store of the woman and Grant is a great example of racism. I do not think that the same thing would happen if Grant were to be a white man. After all, the woman paid more attention to the white customer that walks in when Grant was about to pay. I also found something interesting while Grant plays around with the radio on the shelf. He “could only find three, two in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans. But that was normal for this time of day. At night you were able to tune in others. You could get one as far west as Del Rio, Texas, and another as far as Nashville” (175). I related the day-time as the current timeframe of the community right now. As of right now, Grant and Jefferson do not seem to reach many people, but perhaps later in the novel, there will be a change. More people will become influenced and will change. Radios obtain their stations by frequency waves. Getting only three close ones must mean that there is interference in the air blocking father waves. I believe that the interference in Jeff’s case are the white people who look down on him. It foreshadows the weakening of their power. Any ideas?

Gaines spends a paragraph talking about the word “here”. He says that the word “here” was one that an elder would say to someone when handing something precious and hard-earned to him. “When will all this end? When will a man not have to struggle to have money to get what he needs ‘here’? When will a man be able to live without having to kill another man ‘here’?” (174). Grant is still not mature enough to handle his own problems. However, not everyone is able to overcome problems by themselves; friends are there to provide help. Accepting help now is a way to help a man grow. He will learn from it and work until he does not need help. A man does not want to be shamed by pleading to others for aid more than once. Why do you guys think Gaines spends a paragraph on this word?

Matthew S. 6 said...

Racism does stay the same throughout the book and never changes no matter how much all the other people change. Gaines shows how racism causes all the trouble in society, grinding down black people in everyday interactions. Black people are made to feel their inferiority when they are made to wait at a white person’s leisure, forced to enter through the back door of a white person’s house, or treated without respect by a white salesperson. When Grant must enter Pichot’s house through the back door, it is a symbolic reminder of the days of slavery, when slaves could never approach the front door. For example, when there were only white doors and black doors and other separate things between the whites and blacks. “When will this end, where one man can coexist with another” (174).

Jefferson’s diary is very interesting and shows exactly how much Jefferson has changed with his humanity due to Grant. By writing down his thoughts, Jefferson reflects upon his position in an unjust world vents about everything that is going on around his life. In addition, to him having to think about how to change things and what to do differently. The notebook also symbolizes the friendship between Grant and Jefferson. Grant gives Jefferson the notebook, to help Jefferson teach himself. Jefferson writes in the notebook as if writing a letter to Grant almost asking for guidance. “Grant is happy now because of how I smiled since I had something pleasant to look forward” (180).

Jefferson’s diary is a prime example of how much Jefferson has changed from the beginning of the novel to how he is during the end. Are there any prime examples of how much Grant has changed throughout the novel? Grant’s maturity is as important as Jefferson’s if not more however his aren’t as evident in the novel.

Matthew S. 6 said...

Grant’s maturity is very awkward as he goes from having no faith in himself, his society, or his church; not believing that anything will ever change and thinks escape is the only option. In addition, to being afraid of committing himself to a fight he cannot win. Then becoming someone who has learned to love something other than himself and to strive for change without retreating from the fight such as helping Jefferson when everyone shunned him away.

“The situation doesn’t matter anymore. Just do the best you can” (151). Grant learns to stick true to something and to not back down from a challenge. For example, his interest in Vivian. He tries everything to be with her knowing she has children and is already married. Another example, is helping Jefferson. A man so withdrawn and sullen and giving up hope on changing his life because he is about to die from the electric chair, yet he still tries his hardest to help him change and succeeds even though when they first met Grant thought it was impossible to help him.

Something I don’t understand about in the novel is how Grant and Vivian’s relationship will work out. There are so many obstacles in the way such as her already having children and is already married. In addition, to Grant still not being responsible enough or mature enough to take care of his own problems never mind dealing with his and Vivian’s at the same time.

Matthew S. 6 said...

I believe that Grant and Vivian’s relationship won’t workout. Vivian is married and has two children, but is in the process of divorcing her husband. She wants to hide her relationship with Grant for fear her husband will use it to justify taking the children away from her. On the other hand, Grant doesn’t even have control over his own life. Even though he finally learns to love something other than himself, he still has plenty of problems with his life such as still not acting like a full grown adult and having many problems with the community. For example, when Grant and Vivian plan names for their future children as they make love in the field. Prior to this, Grant suggested that Vivian should elope with him. Grant acts very childishly, but still thinks of having children. Grant and Vivian would just rush themselves into a relationship. In addition, he has plenty of work that he has for himself such as helping Jefferson.

In a relationship, trust is key. Vivian does not even trust Grant that much because in Grant’s self-centered way, he pressures her to go against her community. “No matter what happens, the community will always stay the same and be against everything we are hoping for” (156). Grant being always discriminated by the white people growing up even with all his accomplishments and changes, still feels rage at the whites for treating him badly and rage at himself for taking the treatment lying down. Moreover, he feels he cannot help his community, and in order to stop this failure from paining him, he removes himself from the people he loves such as Vivian.

With the novel coming to a close, do you guys believe that Grant has matured enough to have a relationship with Vivian? Grant has been able to change Jefferson and make him be able to die in peace with himself as well as live his latest moments in life to the fullest and be able to have a new outlook on life as we see from his journal. In addition, Grant changes himself by loving others and actually acting less childish and more like an adult.

Quan T 6 said...

Grant has definitely matured throughout the novel. He seems capable of maintaining a relationship with Vivian because he is devoted only to her. However, I do not think whether the success of Grant’s relationship with Vivian is relevant at all. I believe the important aspect within their relationship is understanding Grant’s character and personality.

In Chapter 23, Reverend Ambrose confronts Grant. Reverend Ambrose believes that Jefferson “‘needs God in that cell, and not that sin box’” (181). Jefferson does not seem to be a religious type of man. Reverend Ambrose always claimed that he wanted to do the best for Jefferson. It is ironic that he would take Jefferson’s sole source of happiness away just to instill religion within his mind. Why would Reverend Ambrose take away the radio if he wishes for Jefferson to be happy? Reverend Ambrose seems overly religious if he only listens to church music. Music seems to have a deeper significance to this book. I believe that through music, one’s soul and mind can escape from the body and enter a state of relaxation.

There seems to be a clash between body and soul in this book. Reverend Ambrose, Miss Emma, and Tante Lou wish to save Jefferson’s soul, while neglecting the body. Grant is the complete opposite; he wishes to save Jefferson’s body. I can understand why both sides would favor one over the other. Reverend Ambrose, Miss Emma, and Tante Lou know that a court decision cannot be changed; therefore they hope to save Jefferson’s soul by instilling God and religion within him. Grant, on the other hand, wishes to help Jefferson “not think about death” (182). I am more inclined to side with Grant’s ideas because he is trying to give Jefferson the best before his death. Jefferson is not religious and it seems pointless to force religious ideas into his mind.

Quan T 6 said...

Grant finally establishes a close connection with Jefferson. For once Jefferson is not monotonous and shunning away from society. This is evident because “there was no hate in his face—but Lord, there was pain” (186) when he looked up at Grant. Grant becomes overjoyed and wants to “throw [his] arms around [Jefferson] and hug him” (186). This scene is important because Jefferson does not see himself as a hog anymore, but realizes that he is human and that people do care for him.

Jefferson is heavily influenced by Grant. Jefferson share common interests and ideas with Grant. These interests include music played from the “sin box” (radio) and their moral standings in Christian faith. Like Grant, Jefferson is also not heavily religious. During Reverend Ambrose’s prayer-sermon, “everyone responded with “‘Amen’” except for Jefferson” (189). Jefferson displays maturity by not conforming to society. In a way, Jefferson is displaying heroism by taking a stand for what he believes in.

Grant introduces the definition of a hero. He claims that a hero assists others and “does something that other men don’t and can’t do” (191). This idea of a hero does not seem ideal. Things which one man cannot do are most likely doable by other men. Therefore, it is impossible for any man to become a hero. Perhaps this means that only women can be heroes. How do you define a hero?

Quan T 6 said...

I define a hero as anyone who is able to stand up against fear to protect their beliefs and morals. Grant would not be a hero by my definition because he strays away from solving racism within the community. Instead he pushes the responsibility onto Jefferson, who happens to be near death. Grant is too selfish and preoccupied with his own life to change society. Jefferson on the other hand has the opportunity to take advantage of his current situation on death row to show society that blacks are also human.

I find it strange that Grant believes that Jefferson is hero material. Grant is educated in academics unlike Jefferson, who is not educated in academics. Citizens expect heroism from Grant, “but not from [Jefferson]” (191). What can Jefferson provide, which cannot be provided to others? I believe that Grant wants Jefferson will give his life to show his refusal to die as anything but a mere man on equal grounds as the white men. This will show the world that Jefferson is “more a man than [white men] can ever be” (192). The following passage was inspiring. Grant compares Jefferson with drift wood. Drift wood, although seemingly useless and abundant, can become powerful potential slingshots. It shows that even low classed people like Jefferson can have potential for greater good. Grant believes that Jefferson’s objective in life is “saving souls” (213)

In Chapter 27, there is a conflict between academic education and societal education. Grant represents the epitome of academic education because he went to college and Reverend Ambrose signifies the essence of societal education. By going to school, Grant has become an outcast within his own society. Reverend Ambrose does not view Grant as a man because he is not as religious as other members in society. While most black citizens believe in the white God for answers, Grant display atheist beliefs. I find it ironic that Reverend Ambrose would question Grant’s education. Grant “will never tell [Jefferson] another lie” (217). Reverend Ambrose, on the other hand encourages lying. He admits that he does lies “at wakes and funerals to relieve pain” (218). This passage has made me ponder about religion. If all religion is unreal, then people believe in it to relieve themselves of the pain of not being able to comprehend unexplainable concepts of life.

Quan T 6 said...

In Chapter 28, Jefferson acts unexpectedly. Jefferson, a person of the lower class, cannot give anything to society. However, at the end of the chapter, Jefferson asks Grant if he’d ‘“care for a ‘tato”’ (225). I believe this scene is symbolic and important. Not once in this book has Jefferson been able to offer anything to anybody. This shows that anyone can give back to society. Jefferson, who has been receiving since the beginning of the book, offers Grant a potato. This action displays Jefferson’s resolution. He has decided to become a man and give back to those who have helped him in the past.

I agree with Matt that Jefferson’s diary is a good indicator of the change Jefferson undergoes since the start of the novel. In the beginning, Jefferson did not speak his mind. He is mesmerized into believing that he is a hog. As the story progresses, Jefferson begins to open up to Grant. When Grant buys Jefferson the notebook and pencil, Jefferson does not write much on it at first. Now that a chapter is dedicated to Jefferson’s entries, it shows that Jefferson has faith in Grant. Jefferson writes his thoughts and mental processes freely. Doing this show that Jefferson accepts himself as a human, not a hog. He expresses his feelings through writing, not by eating. By writing his thoughts, Jefferson is able to leave a permanent indicator of his meaningful life for society. Jefferson is able to show that he did not live to be a mere human, but to be a hero.

Now that the end draws near, I believe it would a good idea to take into account of the change in society after this incident. What is the lesson before dying?

Quan T 6 said...

I believe the lesson before dying is to understand one existence. It means do as one wishes to live with the rest of one’s life. This would make sense because Grant chooses not to be a hero, where as Jefferson chooses to be a hero.

Despite all the work Grant and Jefferson undergo to raise awareness of racism, it is disappointing to know how much time and effort it take to change society. On the bright side, it is good to know that at least one white man, Pal, is touched and affected by the execution. He is the only one who comprehends the injustice at hand. It is good to know that there is a small bridge connecting white society with the black community because Paul will ‘“be there [at the execution]”’ (245) observing Jefferson and being with him in spirit.

It is interesting to note how so much everything has changed since the start of the book. Grant, who was formerly an atheist, turns to God on the day of Jefferson’s execution. Grant “felt like crying, but refused to cry” (249). Crying men is frowned upon by society. Perhaps this shows Grant’s change in maturity. I do not think this is mature at all because Grant seems too afraid to express his own feelings. Instead, he would rather “telephone Vivian” (249) for advice. It is debatable whether Grant has matured at all. Although he begins to show slight care and concern for society, he still maintains immaturity because he turns to Vivian for answers instead of discovering his own.

At the end of the novel Paul commends Grant for being “‘one great teacher’” (254). Grant claims that “‘he didn’t do it’” (254) and gives the credit to God. This shows that Grant does not wish to take credit for any involvement in the Jefferson’s journey to manhood before his execution. Grant is possibly ashamed of his actions. It is also possible that Grant has become more accepting of religion was a way of lying to relieve pain just like Reverend Ambrose.

Quan T 6 said...

In James Joyce’s “A Little Cloud”, Little Chandler suggests that it is “useless to struggle against fortune” (71). I believe this is not true. Without struggle, there is no will to call for change. Connecting this to Gaine’s A Lesson Before Dying, it is evident that a change for the better is not possible without struggle. Jefferson would have remained as a hog without Grant’s influence. Jefferson is able to become a man because he chooses to change in the end. Grant also struggles against his beliefs in religion. Through his struggles, he learns to grow concern for Jefferson as well as influence him to become a man before his death.

Later in the chapter, Little Chandler suggests that “if you wanted to succeed you had to go away” (73). I find this idea ironic, but true. Jefferson had to disappear before he could raise awareness of the injustice of racism within society. His disappearance showed the community that black people are people, not hogs. This is also too similar to Jesus Christ, who had to die for the sake of humanity. What good is success if the leader who initiates the route to success disappears? The leader will never be able to enjoy success.

Ignatius Gallaher and Grant have contrasting beliefs when it comes to relationships. Ignatius Gallaher does not enjoy the feeling of being tied down with children. He states that he must have his “first fling and see a bit of life and the world” (81) before he settles for his own lot of children. Grant although immature, is faithful to Vivian. He plans to marry and take full responsibility of Vivian and her children. Perhaps Grant is more mature than Ignatius.

Little Chandler is influenced by Ignatius Gallaher. After their meeting together, Little Chandler begins to long for the freedom which Ignatius still has. “Tears of remorse started to his eyes” (85) because he feels confined by his child and wife. Like Little Chandler, Jefferson is also heavily influenced by Grant. The relationship between Jefferson and Grant differ from Little Chandler and Ignatius because Grant influences Jefferson positively. The positive influence brought about a good ending because awareness of racism was raised. In Little Chandler’s scenario, Ignatius’ influence caused Little Chandler to be scolded by his wife.

In James Joyce’s “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” features the death of Parnell and end of his career. This story signifies that the past shapes the present. In a Lesson Before Dying there is a similar situation because Jefferson’s death will shape the present. If Jefferson was left to die as a hog, there would be no change in society. However, Jefferson became aware of his human identity with the help of Grant’s influence. By the end of the novel, Jefferson’s execution is able to raise awareness of the injustice of racism to society and even to a white man, Paul. Through this experience, a call for change has been initiated to make the community a better place.

Simon M 6 said...

I agree with Matt that racism does not ever change in the book. From start to end, racism is there. The whites even treated Jefferson, a person sentenced to death, as inferior to them. However, there is one day that everything is quiet. That day is the day of Jefferson’s execution. The streets are quiet and people stay inside throughout the day. Jefferson, who was accused of murder and was punished for it, “should have all their respect this one day” (247). Henry Pichot did not dare leave his house—it was respect for Jefferson and his relatives and friends. But, other than this event, racism is present in the rest of the book.

Jefferson’s diary was very difficult to read. There is no punctuation or grammar anywhere, except separated entry paragraphs. I guess an uneducated man would try to write how words sound. As Matt said, Jefferson’s diary is a reflection upon his feelings about the surrounding world. It is a timeline of his mindset, tracking from uneasiness to ‘walking like a man’. I think that Jefferson’s diary is a way for him to divulge all of his feelings. By writing them down, Jefferson can see how much he needs to change. Jefferson’s addressing to Grant in the diary can demonstrate how much Grant had an impact on Jeff. Their bond grew immensely since the start of the novel. Jefferson listens to Grant as a teacher, almost as a god for guidance.

One example in which I believe Grant has matured is in the Rainbow Club. This is where he overhears bad talk about Jefferson and starts a fight. A fight may be mature or immature depending on a person’s viewpoint. It as been talked about that Grant’s wish to elope with Vivian symbolizes his need to run away. He wanted to run away from all of his problems and start anew. Here however, he stands up for Jefferson as well as himself. Grant defends his pride and does not run away from this problem.

Well, according to what happens in the book, I believe that Grant and Vivian will be fine. They both share plans to have their students pray. Vivian’s children do not seem to pose any threat to their relationship. They never show up in the book and thus have no significant impact. With exception to that one fight, their relationship has run smooth.

Simon M 6 said...

“He needs God in that cell, and not that sin box” (181). Reverend Ambrose yells at Grant saying that Jefferson needs God. It may be a bit late, but I noticed that throughout the novel Reverend Ambrose acts as an opposite of Grant. Ambrose always opposed Grant’s methods. He did not approve of the radio because it entranced Jefferson in sin music. The only music that would be approved is sermon or holy music. Ambrose is always left out; he’s “the one that’s not needed” (183). He feels inferior because Jefferson “he can’t hear [Ambrose] through that wall of sin” (183). “He, the minister, thought that since Jefferson had only a short time left to live, it should be he in control, and not [Grant]” (196). Grant is the only person Jeff is open towards.

The word “hog” shows up again in chapter 23. Grant says that “you can take [the radio] from him. But you won’t reach him if you do” (183). Grant is addressing Ambrose in this sentence, and Ambrose represents God. If God takes away the radio, “the only thing that keeps him from thinking he is not a hog” (183), there will be nothing but a hog. As Jeff would say, ‘music is for youmans’. With the radio, Jefferson is more of a human—he wants ice cream and write in a notebook. I wonder what would happen if he were to return to the hog state. Would Grant’s work be for null?

I also noticed that talk about soul pops out here again. I think that it disappeared throughout the middle of the novel. Why does it appear out again now? Is it because Reverend Ambrose suddenly makes another appearance? God always follows the followers of the church, and thus salvation of the soul comes along with it. I believe this shows that God or Ambrose had little impact on Jeff. Most of the influence was from Grant—not God.

Simon M 6 said...

In chapter 24, “Jefferson’s head had been bowed from the moment he sat down” (189). This is when Jefferson comes out and joins everyone for dinner in the dayroom. Since when was Jefferson this religious? Or if not religious, what is it? Perhaps Jeff turns to God as someone to turn to. But Jeff doesn’t say “Amen” after Ambrose finishes his prayer, why is that?

In this chapter, Jefferson and Grant walk around the room having an honest conversation. They listen to each other carefully and Jefferson even starts crying. This relationship evolved from the wild and primitive behavior to this sympathetic and understanding bond between the two. Grant says, “I need you to tell me, to show me” (193). Grant is asking on behalf the community that Jefferson be a hero. He persuades Jeff to be different and better than everyone else, to stand up with dignity for the community. This relates to people asking Jesus to save them. They wanted someone to be a hero and rescue them, and that was Jesus (Jeff). Jeff begins to understand his role as this hero figure as the novel comes close to a close. Gaines points out the bonding between the two by their walking together in the dayroom.

Not only did their relationship grow, but each of them matured inside. Jefferson has grown immensely since he was jailed. He now understands his godmother’s feelings and tries to cope with soothing her emotions. He is willing to comply with Miss Emma’s and Grant’s wishes. With “the radio still playing” (189), Jefferson’s mindset is of a human, not a hog. Jefferson learns about Grant and about racial myths. Grant now demonstrates sides of him that no one knew. He talked about compassion and his own follies to Grant. It is almost as if he was confessing and saving his own soul. The notebook was also given to Jeff in this chapter. This allows the two to remain in contact all the time.

Simon M 6 said...

Things heat up between Grant and Reverend Ambrose. Ambrose “won’t let [Grant] send that boy’s soul to hell”. He will fight “with all the strength I have left in this body” (215). Ambrose is beginning to strive to fish Jefferson’s soul up and rocket it into heaven. However, Grant’s continuous visits with Jeff allow for self awareness and religion to spark. We find out that Jefferson slowly developed a belief in religion with each visit.

The reverend says Grant learned “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, but [he] don’t know nothing. [He] don’t even know [himself]” (215). Grant is academically educated with knowledge. However, he does not know how to apply all of that education into the real world. This is why Ambrose says that Grant is uneducated. Someone educated is supposedly able to assume a leadership role, to guide the lost. Instead of this, education makes Grant look down on those who are uneducated. Education is supposed to be a tool to help others, but get Grant does not know how to do that. Grant is a teacher yes, but in Ambrose’s eyes, he cannot be educated unless he can guide a soul into the light.

Grant discovers that Tante Lou lies to keep him in college. “She been lying everyday of her life, your aunt in there. That’s how you got through that university—cheating herself here, cheater herself there, but always telling you she’s all right” (218). Ambrose gives Grant a small talk about lies. Ambrose lies at all of his appearances: weddings, funerals, wakes. He explains that his job is to relieve, and if he has to lie, then so be it. This goes against Grant’s “I will never tell him another lie, no matter what” (217). I don’t know what goes through Grant’s mind at this moment when he finds out that Tante Lou’s “hands bleed from picking cotton” (218). Earlier in the novel, he lies to Emma to relieve her pain, but now lying to Jefferson is a different matter. Jefferson is a Christ-like figure, and Grant cannot lie to him.

Simon M 6 said...

As the novel comes to a close, Jefferson becomes aware of the position he must take. That is being a hero like Jesus. Jefferson writes, “If I ain’t nothing but a hog, how come they just don’t knock me in the head like a hog? Starb me like a hog? Man walk on two foots; hogs on four hoofs” (220). At this moment, Jefferson knows that he is a “youman” (224). He knows, as a human, he has responsibilities to take. Jeff’s responsibility is to walk up to the chair with dignity and pride, shattering any myths the white hold.

Jefferson’s resemblance to Jesus is undeniable at this point. Jesus died without a mumbling word, and “that’s how [Jeff] want to go…not a mumbling word” (223). He knows that he is “the one got to do everything” (223). Jefferson knows that he has to assume the role of Jesus in this racist black community. He is the symbol of their pride, showing that blacks can stand up to such an event as death. Jefferson also writes, “when i was a litle boy i was a waterboy an rode the cart but now i got to be a man an set in a cher” (234). These are a few of the final words in Jeff’s diary. Jeff has grown considerably throughout the course of the novel. Grant says, “my eyes were closed before this moment, Jefferson. My eyes have been closed all my life” (225). Grant sees Jefferson as a savior now. When Jeff holds his death with dignity, the black community will achieve salvation and pride.

Jefferson’s execution is set to occur between twelve and three. This is the same time Jesus is crucified. Gaines turns Jefferson into this Jesus-like figure so that everyone will learn a lesson. After Jesus dies, the people become aware of what has been done and try to amend. I believe that the racist community will change soon.

Mr. G said...

You guys all had a slow start—focusing on capitalization of first few words of each chapter—this is just the style choice of whoever typeset the book to having a tough time deciphering race (which should’ve been obvious). But you guys worked out the kinks of beginning a discussion and got much better as time went on. Only Quan made any posts about Joyce.