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Critical analysis of ’A Lesson before Dying’

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  1. Thesis.
  2. Introduction.
  3. Analysis.
    1. Critical acclaim.
    2. Gaines work in a historical context.
    3. Narrative voice.
    4. Authentication of narratives as literature.
  4. Conclusion.
  5. References.

Ernest J. Gaines wrote the novel, 'A Lesson before Dying' in which he highlighted the problems faced by the blacks during the 1940's in the South. However, the contextual time for the novel covers a whole century into until 1964. He writes about the complete devastation faced by the black farmers as their white counterparts terrorized them. He covers the Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan and the white racist organizations that made being a black in the south nearly impossible. He pinpoints the reasons for the Great Migration that took place from 1914 to 1930 during which almost two million blacks left the South. The northern cities in the factories seemed to be a dream which never materialized. The second wave of migration from 1910 to 1970 saw more than six million blacks go to the North, the south had no place for people of color.

[...] Gaines does not want to moralize he simply wants to show awareness of the racism that ran rampant in society of the time. Conclusion "Good by mr wigin tell them im strong tell them im a man" [Gaines chap 29]. These are the lines that show the readers that Wiggin's efforts at teaching Jefferson to stand up for himself and have a sense of the self have paid off. These lines are not aimed at putting down the whites rather they are to reveal the lack of awareness the two races had about each other as people. [...]

[...] Within the scope of Lesson Before Dying' the main theme is helping Jefferson redefine himself with an identity that is separate from the image the white man has. Grant has to help Jefferson see himself as a human and in that context emerges the narrative voice of the book. [Auger, Narrative Voice Mikhail Bakhtin [1981] wrote, "The word in language is half someone else's. It becomes 'ones own' only when the speaker populates it with his own intention . The African American voice was garnered from that of the whites the blacks were too ashamed of their language, dialect and culture to create a self- identity. [...]

[...] Critical literacy is when texts are read in a reflective way to understand the injustices that took place in a society and community. The text is defined as a ?vehicle through which individuals communicate with one another using the codes and conventions of society?.[i] Because the African Americans were deprived of education and could not write down their experiences their narratives from songs to poems to autobiographies are accepted as true history. Focualt [1972] presented that the interpretation of the text is usually based on the people in power. [...]

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