A Lesson Before Dying

Point of view

The reader is given a unique outlook on the status of African Americans in the South, after World War II and before the Civil Rights Movement. We see a Jim Crow South through the eyes of a formally educated African American teacher who often feels helpless and alienated from his own country. In "A Lesson Before Dying," Grant is the only educated black man in the area and the only member of the black community who might be considered capable of becoming free of overt oppression. Nevertheless, his life and career choices are severely limited and he must refer to white male authority figures as "Sir." Because of this, he yearns to leave the disheartening situation he is in. Grant feels that he is cornered by myriad forces: his aunt’s incessant wants, pressure to conform to a fundamentalist religion he does not believe in, the children’s need for a teacher, and the community’s need for leadership.

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