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A Lesson Before Dying

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A Lesson Before Dying is one of the best books I have read. The book is an emotional rollercoaster that will not stop until you finish the book. The story takes place in a little Cajun community in Louisiana during the late 1940s. During this time period the southern United States was very segregated. African Americans were often mistreated by Caucasians. This is one of the main reasons that Jefferson, a young black, mentally retarded man, is convicted of a heinous crime.

Jefferson was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He needed a ride to a liquor store so he found one with a couple of people he didn't know. These strangers, Brother and Bear, were going to rob the liquor store that was owned by Mr. Grope but Jefferson was not aware of this. They got to the liquor store and the plans went horribly. Shooting took place, leaving Jefferson the only living person in the deserted liquor store. Since Jefferson wasn't aware of the seriousness of this crime he took some cash, only because he needed it. Jefferson was later caught while he was on his way out of leaving the store. Jefferson was later convicted of murdering three white men and stealing money from the liquor store. His lawyer even called him a "hog" because hogs do not know any better than Jefferson. Jefferson did not have a fair trial. He did not kill the white men; he was just an innocent bystander. He would face the death penalty for being convicted of the crime. His death would be by electrocution.

It hurt his godmother so much to hear that he was going to be put to death. She didn't believe that her godson was a "hog." She knew that he was mentally retarded, but she wanted him to go to the electric chair like a man. Jefferson's godmother, Miss Emma and her friend Tante Lou wanted Grant Wiggins (Tante Lou's nephew) to teach Jefferson. Grant had to work very diligently to get approval from Henri Pichot (one of the large plantation owners who had great power in the community) to go visit and teach Jefferson in his jail cell. Jefferson doesn't want to talk, eat or listen. Jefferson feels as though he is no better than a fool or as the lawyer had said "hog." Grant is tired of trying to teach Jefferson, he just won't cooperate.

Grant is a young black man who went to a university to learn how to teach younger kids. He doesn't believe that Jefferson will ever learn how to grow up or be a man. He is very angry at Miss Emma and his aunt for making him feel guilty about not wanting to teach Jefferson. He is also in a relationship with Vivian Brown. Vivian is also a teacher like Grant but is just getting through a divorce. Vivian is who keeps Grant from teaching Jefferson and not running away. Later on in the story Grant gets Jefferson to eat his godmothers home cooked food. Grant then convinces Jefferson that he is a human being and he is not a "hog." He tells Jefferson what it means to be a hero. He also teaches Jefferson good manners toward his visitors who are mainly His godmother, Tante Lou and Rev. Ambrose. When the story progresses on and on through each chapter you can see personal changes that Jefferson makes. He starts talking more and he starts listening to a radio that Grant bought him with the money he borrowed from some of the local bar owners. Jefferson also starts writing on a note pad that



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