A Lesson Before Dying Summary

616 words | 3 page(s)

In the novel A Lesson before Dying, Ernest Gaines explores the importance of certain social issues through the perspective of black female characters. These women are depicted in a positive light. Grant is one of the characters who is directly associated with women in the novel. The positive role played by black women in the novel reflects in the way they care for Grant. The author of the book reveals that both Tante Lou and Miss Emma try their best to get Grant eat their food, as the women consider this act as a strong symbol of care for the respective family. The female characters appear strong forces in the black community depicted in the book. They have definitely helped Grant transform not only his life but also his personality and way of thinking. For instance, Grant overcome his feelings of disgust he used to experience on a frequent basis. Without the role of such reinforcing and empowering black women, Grant would have probably spent his life hating everything around him. Therefore, such an aspect is considered unfair and intolerable.

It is important to note that repetitions play an important role in the life of Grant, who is under the direct influence of the black women. Thus, the author of the book states, “After listening to one or two of the verses, I tuned out the rest of them” (Gaines 33). This character has heard such tunes many times, along with the pieces of advice by the influential black women from the local community. It can be stated that the main role of these women is to bring the male character to a state of submission and realization of his own weaknesses. From this perspective, black women emerge with their positive aspects due to their potential to transform one’s negative way of thinking and improper behavioral patterns.

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The focus in the novel is on the dimensions of change, which becomes possible under the influence of strong women, who have a relevant vision of what is needed to become successful in a predominantly white society. Gaines indicates, “Without the hope that these women provide through their belief in redemption in the future, life would be intolerable” (3). Such a statement clearly reflects the positive manner in which black women had demonstrated their influence over the male character, in an attempt to help him realize his capacity of changing certain negative aspects in his life. As a result, the author of the novel points out that black women serve as adequate role models within the community, and other members of society may consider the useful example of tolerance and change they had set with their positive actions. It has been illustrated that black women play an essential role in redefining specific dimensions of social interaction between whites and blacks.

Due to the positive influence of the black women on Grant, he had reached a point where he realized the importance of being a member of society and how he could guide his actions in order to achieve adequate results. In fact, Grant had realized his place in community. Based on the actions of the black women in the novel, it can be indicated that the author shows that women are stronger than men. Thus, the black women depicted in the book are quite powerful because they serve as a reinforcing source in Grant’s life, helping the man acquiring new ideas and perspectives about his own existence. It can be concluded that some of the factors contributing to the positive role played by black women refer to their active involvement with the local church and their pride in their cultural heritage.

  • Gaines, Ernest. A Lesson before Dying. New York: Vintage, 1994.

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