Responsive writing: A Lesson Before Dying
The movie “A Lesson Before Dying,” a prize winning novel by Ernest Gaines, is a story about racial injustice against African-Americans. Set in the south, in the late 1940’s, this story is another example of how oppression against a race of people leads to psychological defects, inferiority complexes, and feelings of self degradation.
Jefferson, played by Mekhi Phifer, finds himself the witness of a murderous crime between the owner of a liquor store and two black men. Hearing the shots, local residents enter the store while Jefferson is stealing money from the register. He’s assumed to be the shooter and is apprehended and put on trial by a racist society of white people. His own lawyer tells the jury that Jefferson didn’t have enough sense to know better, and that executing him would be the same as killing a hog. Nevertheless, Jefferson is sentenced to be executed. Miss Emma, Jefferson’s mother, is angry by the lawyer’s comments. She contacts a African-American teacher; Grant Wiggins, to go to the jail cell and convince Jefferson that he isn’t a dumb hog, but that he’s a man. Reluctantly, Grant visits Jefferson daily, and the two men build a bond and new sense of self identity.
Reverend Ambrose, played by Brent Jennings; wants Jefferson to trust in Jesus, but he’s unable to get through to him, so he asks Grant Wiggins to speak to Jefferson. Grant is already struggling with his own belief in God. Whether it’s Miss Emma, Jefferson’s aunt, or Reverend Ambrose, Grant resists everyone’s attempt to remind him of Jesus. Ultimately, Grant and Jefferson find some understanding about religion within themselves. Jefferson prepares himself to die with a new sense of dignity.
One of the most heart felt scenes is when the school children take a trip to the jail to say goodbye to Jefferson. Each child gives Jefferson a gift as they say goodbye to him. With tears in his eyes, and a new sense of appreciation for the people that care about him, Jefferson says “thank you.”
In addition, Lisa Arrindell Anderson; playing the part of Vivian Baptiste, delivers a magnificent performance. Lighting up the screen with her beauty, and strong conviction, she becomes the support mechanism for Grant Wiggins. Grant is in love with Vivian and intends to marry her, therefore, he confides in her about his struggles with Jefferson, as well as, the pressure everyone is putting on him. As a result, they strengthen their relationship with each other, and find new direction in their lives.
In the end, this story reminds us that; despite the insurmountable odds that we face in life, we can overcome self degradation; due to the oppression of others, with self dignity, spirituality, and an appreciation for the people who love us.