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A Lesson before Dying by Ernest J. Gains: The Impact of Injustice on One's View of Themselves

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Injustice is something that a lot of people experience in today’s society. It usually happens to people of color in today’s society when someone is accused of something they didn’t do. This is similarly the case in the book a “Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gains which is about a young boy named Jefferson who gets accused of murder in Lauisanna durin the late 1940s, and given the death penelty, without being given a real chance at a fair trial. He was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, in a society full of racial injustice. In this novel there is a reoccuring theme that racial injustice causes people to change their view of themselves, simply because of how society treated them. We see this through the use of diction in the novel that is mostly shown when Jefferson is in court. It expresses that he is not given a fair chance to have an actual trial with valid evidence. We also see this threw the characterization of Jefferson in the novel once he is accused of the murder. When the book started Jefferson was someone who saw himself as innocent but he longer he spent in prison he started to think of himself as being a “hog” even though he is innocent.

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Firstly, injustice is shown in Gains novel, “A Lesson Before Dying’’ when the main character, Jefferson is on trial and it is clear to the reader that he was not given a fair trial. For example when he is in court it states “the defence argued that Jefferson was innocent of all charges except being at the wrong place at the wrong time” conveys that he didn’t actually do anything but the court never gave him a chance to prove that he was innocent, they just saw him and because he was colored they automatically thought that he was guilty. This goes back to my theme that injustice within the novel because if they were being fair with him, they would have given him a chance at a fair trial and figured out that he was innocent.

In addition, throughout the story we see that Jefferson starts to believe what everyone said about him and what people think of him. This includes the fact that they say he is a hog and he soon starts to act like one because he starts to believe that he is a horrible person that the people say he is. For example, when he starts to believe he is a hog he starts to act rudely towards the people who are trying to help him see that he’s not a hog he is a man. He says to his teacher Grant, ‘I’m gonna show you how an old hog eat’ and he then “knelt down on the floor and put his head inside the bag and started eating, without using his hands. He even sounded like a hog.” This elaborates on my team that injustice can lead to people changing their view of themselves because Jefferson knows that he was innocent but because people believed he was guilty he started to believe it himself.

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In conclusion, the theme that injustice can change one’s view of themselves in a Lesson Before Dying is proven using the evidence that Jefferson changed his view of himself into thinking he was a good person to thinking he was a hog. Although, it is also important to consider the time period that this book was based in because during the 1940s racism was a huge issue and people of color where shown a huge amount of injustice. This is also a problem in the real world because when people are proven guilty but they are actually innocent they soon go to become vicious in prison and as time goes on.

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