A Lesson before Dying Essay

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David J. Kelly is a literature and creative writing instructor at College of Lake County and Oakton Community College in Illinois. In this essay he examines how the inaction of Grant Wiggins, the book's narrator, might make readers uncomfortable.

Readers who do not want to take the time to learn from fiction, who want a novel to have a straightforward, simple message, might find Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying a frustrating experience. This is definitely a moral book, with a distinct sense of right and wrong, but it is also too wise about the ways of the world to oversimplify the morals of its characters. For instance, if Jefferson were merely a witness to the liquor store shootings, then readers could easily agree that he is victimized by the legal system, but Gaines, rather than leaving him one hundred percent innocent, has him empty out the...

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This section contains 1,886 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the A Lesson before Dying Study Guide
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