A Lesson Before Dying

To what degree does Jefferson control his own transformation?

From the book A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

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Before dying, Jefferson completes his transformation into a dignified, compassionate, exemplary human being. When Paul enters the cell to shave Jefferson, he notices that Jefferson stands up immediately and that the radio has been turned off. Before, Jefferson’s bunk and his radio allowed him to isolate himself. He used to lie on the bed and listen to the radio in order to block out the world. In leaving these props behind, Jefferson shows that he wishes to face reality. Of all the people involved in the execution, only Jefferson faces the event unflinchingly. He becomes even more strongly identified with Christ in these last chapters. He seems to convert Paul, who says Jefferson was the “strongest man in the room.” Grant addresses his thoughts to Jefferson in the final chapter as if praying to Jesus Christ for forgiveness or assistance. Grant asks Jefferson to forgive him and says, “My faith is in you, Jefferson.” For Grant, Jefferson has become a hero to emulate in times of despair.