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Lesson Before Dying

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The ending of A Lesson Before Dying gives the reader a sense of despair and then portrays a sense of optimism. Gaines' writing is unique because the reader feels this hope for the future and optimism without Gaines having to say it. Instead, he wrote about the execution and the hope was picked up from the "little things." At the reader feels disappointed because Jefferson has died. The optimism comes into play through Grant and the fact that he has learned his lesson(s) from Jefferson. It is also uplifting because Jefferson has died with dignity on the day meant for him. I think that Gaines also throws a curve in at the end through the character of Paul whose purpose seems to stress the hope for the future of Blacks in a white society.

When I first finish reading the novel, the very end was most significant. "I went up to the desk and turned to face them. I was crying."(p.256). These last words are appropriate because they convey exactly how I felt as I finish the book, and how I think that Grant should feel. Throughout the novel I saw Grant as hard and unfeeling. He only went to see Jefferson out of respect for his aunt. Then at the end the reader saw him change to a person who was compassionate about Jefferson. This showed promise and hope for the future of Grant as a caring human being who just might learn to appreciate what he has been given.

After I finished the novel, I reread the last chapter because I felt like I had missed something. It was then that I noticed the little things that make the end as powerful as it is. "It was a nice day. Blue sky. Not a cloud." (p.247). Grant was describing the setting for the day of the execution. A man, wrongly accused and wrongly sentenced, was going to die on the perfect day. This quote, though not significant to any other part of the novel, stood out to me because it showed hope for the day. It created a sense of happiness and calmness on an otherwise horrific event.

Another thing also stood out to me, similar to the previous quote. "Yes I told myself. It is finally over. I stood up and stretched and looked across the highway at the river, so tranquil, its water as blue as the sky. The willows near the edge of the water were just as still, and no breeze stirred the Spanish moss that hung from the cypresses." Grant's reflection on the atmosphere after the death of Jefferson creates a sense of perfect harmony within the little town that was in commotion just a few hours before. The river was perfect, and the willows did not move out of respect for the dead. This quote is a perfect example of how a novel is not just about the main story, but also about the little things that make a big impression.

I think the previous two quotes also stand out for another reason. Not only is the setting tranquil on the day Jefferson dies, but it also seems to counterpart the dignity Jefferson had accepting his death. It is as if the even the earth is walking with him because he has grown that much as a person. The world around him wants to help him be human as opposed to a hog. If he had fought his death until the last moment, I think that the weather might have been just a little more inclement.

I believe that Gaines made Paul a prevalent character at the end to show a white person's role in Jefferson's life and death. Paul comes into play through a conversation he has with



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