A Lesson Before Dying Analysis

Education in A Lesson Before Dying and Society Now
One might believe that education is something solely gained through the attendance of school. Ernest Gaines, however, shows that education can refer to several different types of learning. In A Lesson Before Dying, Grant, a schoolteacher, believes that education is something that can only be gained in a classroom, but his idea of education changes throughout the progression of the novel. Today, the same story can be related. Society treats African American students the same as Whites, but Blacks’ history and culture differs from Whites. They were born into a race that has been discriminated for generations. The black man’s education does not come from schoolbooks alone, but through his life experiences.
Education is a center idea in A Lesson Before Dying, but there is more than one definition of “education” in the novel. Education can be viewed as the acquiring of knowledge, such as when Grant explains, “Yes, I’m the teacher… And I teach what the white folks around here tell me to teach – reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. They never told me how to keep a black boy out of a liquor store” (Gaines 13). Education can also be defined as gaining the skills to prepare oneself for life or death. Miss Emma refers to both Grant and Jefferson when she states, “I want the teacher make him know he’s [Jefferson] not a hog, he’s a man” (Gaines 20). Both of these examples show that education cannot be defined by a single definition: It refers to knowledge gained through schooling and experience. However, as Dr. Narviar Barker, a professor of social work, explains, there are roadblocks which make it difficult for black people to gain a proper education: “Each member of society is conditioned to respond according to the patterns of his tradition – those of the family as well as the universal expectations of the community and the world” (Barker 66). Black people have been oppressed for generations, and…

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