Customer Reviews for

A Lesson before Dying

Average Rating 4
( 289 )
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(119)

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(11)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

I've read this book over a sixty times

This is a modern day classic. I've read and taught this book since 1998. I never get tired of the story and I constantly find new facets of the book that I am just now seeing. From the Christ figure of Jefferson to Grant's ambiguous atheism, Gaines takes an interesting ...
This is a modern day classic. I've read and taught this book since 1998. I never get tired of the story and I constantly find new facets of the book that I am just now seeing. From the Christ figure of Jefferson to Grant's ambiguous atheism, Gaines takes an interesting look at the problems of faith for black men in the 1940's Deep South. Also, Grant's journey to manhood parallels Jefferson's. Could either of them have done it without the other? Their are other themes present as well: Human dignity, Community Responsibility, Running away from one's problems,and Universality are some of them. I've found that I learn something from this book every single time I read it with my classes. The humanity of Jefferson's diary always moves my students. Even though Jefferson isn't an educated, or even a smart man, he is still a man deserving of dignity and decency and justice. While seeming to be a rather dark subject, A Lesson Before Dying is an uplifting story of hope and redemption. I can't imagine not having this book in my classroom.

posted by Fully on April 17, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

good meaning, poorly written

This novel had good potential, but it was very dry and boring. The middle of the novel is very repetitive; the same thing happens over and over again. It was very difficult to like the characters, Grant is very whiney and Jefferson shows no emotion. Grant shows little c...
This novel had good potential, but it was very dry and boring. The middle of the novel is very repetitive; the same thing happens over and over again. It was very difficult to like the characters, Grant is very whiney and Jefferson shows no emotion. Grant shows little compassion toward Jefferson and seems agitated when he is asked to help him by Jefferson's elderly godmother. The beginning and ending of the novel were pretty good, but all the pages in between showed no development or contribution to the plot. The characters remained flat and they were very predictable. Jefferson's Diary at the end was a horrible reading experience. It is understood that he was not educated properly as a child back in the 1940s, and life was VERY hard for him, but not many readers want to sit around and waste their time reading a whole chapter of "...i done eat my rice an beans an i done had my cup of milk an the sun comin in the windo cause i can see it splashin in the flo..." (Gaines 226). Also, the theme of the novel was apparent from the first page, which was racism. This theme dominated the novel to the highest extent, and it made the whole plot very predictable. The only positive point about this novel is its message. It shows the hardships people endured in a racist world and how they dealt with it.

posted by 11504870 on April 4, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2007

    Suprising

    This book was one of my summer reading projects for english class. Being such, I thought that I would dread the book. However, I was plesently suprised that it was enjoyable. The assignment was to read the book over a period of time and ruminate the many themes, messages, and symbols of the book. Well, I read the book in three days. And I am not one of those people who reads that fast. The other book I had to read was the same length, and it took me two months to finish. It was just so good. Perhaps it was the down-home charm of the deep south, and the simplicity of life that comes with it. Perhaps it was the idea of action at the begining, and the repercussions that result from that action(An idea abanndoned in countless books) that followed. Or perhaps it was the realization that life's dark side has a way of eating away at one's soul, and the simple act of rising above such depression gives us the power to enjoy every moment of our lives. Definatly a book with many levels of thought. Maybe that's why my teachers assigned it to me. Hmmmm....Very interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2006

    Amazing!

    I was just handed the AP English class at the high school where I teach, and the retiring teacher recommended this novel. When I started reading it, I was certain that I would not like it at all. I WAS WRONG! This was an amazing book! It is most certainly on my AP Required Reading List!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2006

    a moving tale

    I love this book and the message that it had to say. It makes you think about how much or how little our world has progressed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2005

    'The Greatest'

    'A Lesson Before Dying' is an very emotional book. Ernest Gaines is an excellent writer. I like the book because it protrays real life.This book will have you sitting on the edge of your seat,and you'll keep on reading because the chapters are so good that you'll want to know what's going to happen next.I will love to read another book by Ernest Gaines.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2005

    Emotionally Captivating!

    A young black man, Jefferson, is condemned to death by electrocution for being at the wrong place at the wrong time and for the simple fact that he was born with a dark skin color. Racism during the late 1940¿s was a terrible evil committed by many whites who thought treating blacks unjustly was acceptable because blacks were sub-human and did not deserve respect. Before Jefferson was condemned to death, Jefferson¿s lawyer publicly compared him to a hog in a purposefully pathetic attempt to make the jury have pity for him. For the next couple of months, a young teacher by the name of Grant tries to teach and convince Jefferson that he is a man and not a hog. The job Grant is given is very difficult because teaching a man to walk to death with dignity is hard enough, but teaching a young black man who has been humiliated by racism and publicly embarrassed in a courtroom where justice is guaranteed to be served, according to the Constitution, is even harder. This story develops very slowly and many readers become skeptical as Grant visits Jefferson for an hour every week. These hour long visits seem perpetual in the beginning but as the date of Jefferson¿s execution grows nearer, the sessions start seeming interminable because both Grant and Jefferson are going through a tender journey of self-discovery. Ernest Gaines has complete control of the reader¿s thoughts and emotions especially at the end of this book. His unbelievable talent for dramatically bringing out the reader¿s emotions from a simple story can only be truly experienced by reading A Lesson Before Dying.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2005

    A Lesson Before Dying

    I believe this book was an excellent choice for me to read because it keep my attention. I really like this book becuase of the characters and how Gaines used them throughout the story. The average book keep me interested because it was told from the point of view of a black southern man. Therefore him tells major events that happened in his life concludes to him writing a great story. My review I recommend this book to anyone how reads about the life of another especially with the urge of knowing your history and how things were back then from know.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2005

    good book

    I liked reading this book. It was and I¿ll admit an emotional book because of the injustice. It¿s Fiction, but it has a lot of facts in it describing the setting it took place and how people acted and how people were treated in the south in the 1940¿s. It is not at all boring its keeps wanted to go on and finish the book and make you question lot things.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2005

    WOW!!!!!

    i was a little skeptical about this book but i found myself unable to put it down. the begining is a little slow but keep on reading it becomes absolutely amazing. and when i read jefferson's last words i felt myself in his shoes.'tell my nannan i walked'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2005

    Lesson Before Dying Review

    Lesson Before Dying is an excellent book to read. It takes the reader back to 1940¿s when segregation was still around in the south. The reader meets a character named Jefferson, who is a young black kid, sentenced to death. All his godmother wants from him before he dies is to die as a man. This book is also about learning what a man is and what type of person you are. A character named Grant in the book, helps to teach Jefferson before he dies on how to be a man and during the process Grant discovers himself. This is a very good book and I recommend it to anybody.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2005

    Nathan Loveday..a student at PSTCC.

    I personally think this is one of the best books I have ever read. This story from the beginning to the end kept my attention.I think that Gaines Is a great author. It Is a sad story of how one uneducated black man can be caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. A murder committed by the two african american men that Jefferson was with eventually led to his conviction of murder and soon to be execution. Everyone should know that jefferson was not guilty of this crime because he is probably not even smart enough to pull the trigger of a gun. The main focus of this story is trying to teach jefferson that he is not a hog but that he is man. They just want him to die knowing that he is a man with a little bit of dignity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2005

    Serious but rewarding situation

    I think of this story as giving insight on how the southern culture was in the 1940's. This situation that is being described tells a situation about a young boy that was basically at the wrong place at the wrong time and was found to be guilty of a crime he didnt committ. This boys godmother is on her death bed and wants Grant to convince her godson that he should die not thinking as a hog but as a man. Grant is faced with a deliema and in the process of trying to convince Jefferson he is a man Grant unexpectantly discovers himself. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to young people that can avoid situations like Jefferson's by making wiser choices.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2005

    About 'A Lesson Before Dying'

    I really did like this book.I think that it is the best book i have ever read simply because it was able to hold my attention and no other book has done that.I will begin to read but I never finish it.Something that I really liked about this book was that it got strait to the point and let you know what was going on instead of fooling around,I guess that is what kept my attention.I would definatly recommend this book to someone else to read,if it can hold my attention,it can hold anyones attention.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2005

    What a hard lesson to learn

    A lesson Before Dying is a great book. Its wirtten back in the south in the late 1940's. The author really shows how being at the wrong place at the wrong time and having the wrong color skin can hurt you sometimes.Jefferson and Grant learn a life lesson together. Knowing that even though people try to run from their mistakes that you can't hide but learn from them. This book really takes In. Reading the book feels you with great emotions and mind opening lesson. Just because the world says your one thing you CAN BE ANOTHER!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2005

    My introduction to Gaines work

    I truly enjoyed reading this book. I am very interested in that era and the struggle blacks faced and the courage a group, any group of people have to support one another in times of strife. This novel depicted that along with many types of loves and faiths. I loved this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2004

    Life or Death

    As a busy mom and student reading is something I don't put a lot of time in. I had to read A Lesson Before Dying for my reading class. This book is absolutely phenominal. I have also been at the wrong place at the time, which only caused me confinement to my room,so I can relate. Jefferson a young black man just needed a ride and because he chose to ride with two delinquents from his quarter, it caused him his life. Grant, the teacher, was sent to Jefferson by Tante Lou and Miss Emma. The two men at first were just meeting each other out of respect for the ladies. But when they both realized that they needed each other, things got a little less complex between the two. I would absolutely recommend this book. One lesson it teaches is to stand up no matter what life throws at you. Life is not always a bed of roses, you get out what you put in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2004

    In My Own Words..

    I found this book to be very interesting. I thought Gaines did a good job at keeping his readers interested and he did well at describing things and places throughout the book to make a clear picture of what he was talking about. I would recommend this book to anyone. I think it's important for people to know about how the world was back in the day and this book does a good job at letting people see how much different it was then, then how we live now. Gaines is a terrific author and this novel definately proves it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2004

    My opintion of a lesson before dying

    A lesson before dying was a very intringing book. I'm not really a reader but this book made me enjoy reading again.Ernest James Gaines is a very intelligent writer and I would read another one of his story if it's as good as this one. I like how he let his readers feel the words of the book. He let us, the readers feel the emotion Jefferson and those in the Quarter (the community) were feeling. He helped me realize that sometimes it's good to think before you do something, because one mistake can change your whole life. Gaines expresses Jefferson words in a uneducated way. I like that because he wanted his readers to know how it was being not able to read or write correctly. Gaines tought me to just appreciate that I have a good education. I still have a lot to learn but as I grow I will learn more. I have not read a good book in so long. I will hold on to this for years to come.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2004

    A LOOK BACK IN TIME

    I really enjoyed reading 'A Lesson Before Dying'. I would strongly recommend that everyone read this book so that they can see how far the Black race has come and how much further they have to go. Originally, I read this book as part of an assignment for my college reading class. However, the more I read the book, the more I became engrossed in the characters and the story. Many of my classmates cried when we had classroom discussions about certain parts of the story. I feel that this story can't help but teach us all compassion and that it will also have an inspritional and emotional impact on anyone who reads it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2004

    To Become a Man or Not

    For you all who have not read the book I just want to let you know this is a classic. The author gets deep in the book and really lets you know what is going on. He gives details about the characters and you feel like you are in the book. It is set in the south during the civil right when blacks had to be careful about what they did. You had to watch you¿re self so you would not get in to trouble. Some one made a big mistake. He went to jail and they wanted him to become a man or to learn the lessons of being a man. Why? Pick the book up and find out. You want be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2004

    Excellent representation of 1940's

    A Lesson Before Dying is a powerful example of what the community of Louisiana was like in the 1940¿s. It is a story of a young black man by the name of Jefferson who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Due to a wrong decision, Jefferson was wrongly sentenced to the death penalty. His godmother, Miss Emma, wants Jefferson to die a man rather then the 'hog' the courts said he was. With the help of a teacher named Grant Wiggins, Jefferson learns how to be a man with pride and to understand the importance of people who care about him. In the book these two men form a bond and both help each other define man-hood. This novel is the prime example of our history and how our community has slowly broke away from the vicious circle of racism.

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