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Alissa Millar

Ms. Gardner

English 10H/ 6th

19 October 2016

A Further Look Into Ernest Gainess A Lesson Before Dying

Brown, Anne Gray. Writing for life: 'Jefferson's Diary' as transformative text in Ernest J. Gaines's A

Quarterly, 2009. Literature

Lesson before Dying. Southern Online,



This critical article looks not only into what Jefferson wrote in his notebook, but also how he

writes, from language to spelling. It also touches on Ernest Gainess intentions for including the

chapter completely comprised of Jeffersons last thoughts.

A Lesson Before Dying to see the

The analytical, observant tone of this article allows a reader of

purpose behind the sudden switch from Grant Wiggins highly educated point of view to

Jeffersons barely literate perspective. Gaines uses this change not only shows Jeffersons

background of neglect, but also that he has transformed into a human being willing and trying to

leave behind insightful thoughts and emotions.

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Guzzio, Tracie Church. "Gaines, Ernest." In Samuels, Wilfred D., ed. Encyclopedia of

African-American Literature. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. (Updated 2011.) Bloom's




Tracie Church Guzzio, an English professor at Plattsburgh State University of New York,

provides insight into Ernest Gainess background, writing success, and purpose in this article. It

describes Gainess childhood on a Louisiana plantation, his move to California, and his education

at San Francisco State College. Later, it details his successful works and the relations his writings

have to his own life; for example, they are all set in a place quite familiar to him, Louisiana.

This articles informational tone helps any reader of Gainess work look deeper into the

strategic details of his writing. It credits his success to his ability to create such lively,

personable characters; his familiarity with the setting and situations, as his books are often

about African American rights and issues, allows him to do so. His knowledge of the South and

its culture, combined with his education in English, greatly reflect onto Grants well educated,

black character in A Lesson Before Dying.

Newman, Jon O.. "To Save Our Justice System, End Racial Bias in Jury Selection." New York Times

(Online). 27 May 2016: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher,

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With this New York Times article, Jon O. Newman, a U.S. federal judge, explains the process in

which prosecutors and defense lawyers can search through possible jurors of a case and eliminate

as many as they want-- no questions asked. While the purpose of this process is to exclude jurors

that are personally affiliated with the defendant or are known to be biased, it allows prosecutors

and lawyers to eliminate possible jurors simply because of race. The result of this is many

instances of racial prejudice in the courtroom, including a case in which an all white jury found a

black man guilty, sentencing him to death.

This article, written with a highly experienced and educated tone, shows many parallels between

Jeffersons case in A Lesson Before Dying and the more recent cases of others. It lets the reader

understand why such racial prejudice was and is still allowed in the United Statess courts, while

also allowing the reader to relate Jeffersons situation to almost identical, non-fiction ones.

St. John, Paige. "Surprising Views on Death Penalty Among Inmates." Los Angeles Times. 20

Sep. 2016: A.1. SIRS Issues Researcher,


Paige St. John, an investigative journalist for the Los Angeles Times, explores the

opinions of prisoners sentenced to death on the 2016 ballot initiatives concerning capital

punishment. This article shows the wide range of perspectives the prisoners hold, their

reasonings, and their worries of what will happen after the initiatives either pass or fail.

Some fear they will lose connection with their mentors, some see death as a relief, and

some are indifferent-- they just want change.

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Just as Ernest Gaines did with Jefferson in A Lesson Before Dying, St. John uses an

unbiased yet personal tone in this article to humanize the prisoners. She includes their

opinions on their possible executions to show a deeply emotional and personal part of

their lives; this also allows the reader to gain insight on Jeffersons thoughts, as he was in

an extremely similar situation. When compared to A Lesson Before Dying, this article

emphasizes that death penalty is as much an issue now as it was in the 1940s, for the

prisoners and communities of both then and now.

Summer, Bob. "Ernest Gaines: the novelist describes his arduous efforts to educate himself as a

writer." Publishers Weekly, 24 May 1993, p. 62+. L

iterature Resource Center,



This biographical article discusses Ernest Gainess inspirations, taken from many people

and places throughout his life: other authors, childhood influences, an apartment located

near Alcatraz, and more. In addition, it describes briefly his childhood and background,

focussing on the start of his writing career in his local public library.

Taking on an insightful, well-read yet informational tone, this article allows the reader to

get inside of Gainess head and further understand his writing process. The biography

shows that through taking inspiration from his life-- the voices of his neighbors in the

quarter and the distress he felt living so close to Alcatrazs many executions-- Gainess

was able to create a deeply real and strong voiced atmosphere for A Lesson Before Dying.

Also, by detailing his search for books centering around or written by black people, it is
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made clear that the education of black people is something he connects with; this is also

clearly shown in A Lesson Before Dying with his quest to educate not only his students,

but also Jefferson.

Vancil, David E. "Redemption according to Ernest Gaines." Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited

by Janet Witalec, vol. 181, Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center,


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David E. Vancil, an English professor at Indiana State University, explores how Ernest Gainess

use of comic scenes contributes to the roles of both black and white people in A Lesson Before

Dying. Additionally, he examines Wigginss at times cynical attitude towards and relationship

with whites (which calls for such comic relief).

By analyzing Grant Wigginss feelings towards white people, generally resentful, Vancil

highlights the meaning of Paul Bonins character, which is seen as otherwise relatively

insignificant. Although he is there on somber terms, visiting the jail in which Jefferson is housed

allows Wiggins to form a healthy, equal relationship with a white person. As for the comic

scenes, like when the white superintendent inspects the students mouths, Vancil points out that

their purpose is to give the reader a general idea of black and white roles for the time; no

matter how intelligent the ideas of a black man are, they are inferior to the stupidest ideas of

a white man.
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