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Essay/Term paper: A lesson before dying

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Cliff Notes

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In A Lesson Before Dying, Mr.

Grant Wiggins' life crises were the center of the story.

Although he was supposed to make Jefferson into a man, he

himself became more of one as a result. Not to say that

Jefferson was not in any way transformed from the "hog" he

was into an actual man, but I believe this story was really

written about Mr. Wiggins. Mr. Wiggins improved as a

person greatly in this book, and that helped his relationships

with other people for the most part. At the start of the book,

he more or less hated Jefferson, but after a while he became

his friend and probably the only person Jefferson felt he

could trust. The turning point in their relationship was the one

visit in which Jefferson told Mr. Wiggins that he wanted a

gallon of ice cream, and that he never had enough ice cream

in his whole life. At that point Jefferson confided something

in Mr. Wiggins, something that I didn't see Jefferson doing

often at all in this book. "I saw a slight smile come to his

face, and it was not a bitter smile. Not bitter at all"; this is the

first instance in which Jefferson breaks his somber barrier

and shows emotions. At that point he became a man, not a

hog. As far as the story tells, he never showed any sort of

emotion before the shooting or after up until that point. A

hog can't show emotions, but a man can. There is the

epiphany of the story, where Mr. Wiggins realizes that the

purpose of life is to help make the world a better place, and

at that time he no longer minds visiting Jefferson and begins

becoming his friend. Mr. Wiggins' relationship with his Aunt

declined in this story, although it was never very strong. His

Aunt treated him like he should be a hog and always obey,

yet she wanted him to make a hog into a man. His Aunt was

not a very nice person, she would only show kindness

towards people who shared many of her views, and

therefore was probably a very hard person to get along with.

The way Mr. Wiggins regarded his relationships most likely

would have been different were he white. Mr. Wiggins feels,

and rightly so, that several white men try to mock or make a

fool of him throughout the story. This was a time of racial

discrimination with much bigotry, so if the story took place in

the present, it would be much different. In fact, there

probably would have not even been a book because in the

modern day, and honest and just jury would have found him

innocent due to the lack of evidence. It wasn't really clear

what sort of situation Mr. Wiggins was in regarding money,

but he could not have been too well off because he needed

to borrow money to purchase a radio for Jefferson, and he

commented about the Rainbow Cafe: "When I was broke, I

could always get a meal and pay later, and the same went

for the bar." I suppose he had enough money to get by, but

not much extra. As the book progresses he probably had

less money to work with due to the money he was spending

to buy the radio, comic books, and other items for Jefferson.

Mr. Wiggins seemed to be well respected by the

community, and he felt superior to other African Americans

because he was far more educated than they were. That

makes Mr. Wiggins guilty of not practicing what he

preaches, although Jefferson probably made it clearer to him

that the less intelligent are still humans with feelings. At the

start of the book, Mr. Wiggins did not understand this. He

went to visit Jefferson because Miss Emma and his Aunt

more or less forced him to do it. He really had no motivation

except that he would be shunned by his Aunt if he did not

comply. The whole process of Mr. Wiggins' development

and the plot of this story both spawn from the crimes of two

characters with no other relevance to the story. After the

police found Jefferson at the liquor store with the dead

bodies all around, he was of course taken to trial and the

times being what they were, he was convicted with very little

doubt that he would be found innocent. Miss Emma, his

godmother was afraid that he would die a hog and have

lived a meaningless life. She wanted him "Not to crawl to the

white man, but to get up and walk to him at the end." At first

Mr. Wiggins was not very concerned about Jefferson, he

just wanted to pass the time he had to spend with him, but

then after a while he began to think of what it would feel like

to be a dead man, and what he could do to make the time

Jefferson had left to be the best they could for him. This was

the greatest achievement Mr. Wiggins accomplished in the

entire book. He managed to be able to have pity upon

Jefferson without empathy. After the point in which he

discussed the ice cream and the radio with Jefferson, and

Jefferson admitted for the first time that he was more than a

hog, Mr. Wiggins truly cared. Mr. Wiggins developed

greatly during the course of this story, along with other

characters featured in the story. Vivian met new people and

increased the quality of her relationship with Mr. Wiggins,

Miss Emma finally got to see someone stand for her, Tante

Lou learned that she had a decent nephew after all, and

Jefferson got off of his four legs and stood. The End!  

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