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Human Dignity in A Lesson Before Dying Grant and Jefferson are on a journey Though they have vastly different educational backgrounds their commonality of being black men who have lost hope brings them together in the search for the meaning of their lives In the 1940s small Cajun town of Bayonne Louisiana blacks may have legally been emancipated but they were still enslaved by the antebellum myth of the place of black people in society Customs established during the years of slavery negated the laws meant to give black people equal rights and the chains of tradition prevailed leaving both Grant and Jefferson trapped in mental slavery in their communities The struggles of Grant and Jefferson share a common theme mans search for meaning Grant has the advantage of a college education and while that may have provided some enlightenment he remains in the same crossroads as Jefferson Grant sees that regardless of what he does the black students he teaches continue in the same jobs the same poverty and same slave-like positions as their ancestors Grant has no hope of making a difference and sees his life as meaningless Though Jeffersons conflict is more primal it is the same as Grants struggle Jefferson is searching for the most basic identity whether he is man or animal It is this conflict of meaning and identity that bring Grant and Jefferson together In this book Ernest J Gaines presents three views to determine manhood law education and religion Jefferson has been convicted of a crime and though he did not commit it he is sentenced to death as a hog a word that denies any sense of worth or fragment of dignity he may have possessed in a world ruled by oppressive white bigots Jefferson is at an even greater loss as he has no education and after the conviction he doubts that God can even exist in a world that would send an
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