" we black men have failed to protect our women since the time of slavery. we stay in the South and are broken, or we run away and leave them aloneto look after the children and themselves. so, each time a male child is born, they hope he will be the one to chage the vicious circle-which he never does. because even though he wants to change it, it is too heavy a burden because of all who have run away and left their burdens behind. so, he too must run awayif he is to hold on to his sanity and have a life of his own. what she wants for us is to change everything that has been going on for three hundred years. she wants it to happen so in case she ever gets out of her bed again, she can go to that little church there in the quarter and say proudly, " you see i told you-i told you he was a man." and if she dies an hour after that, all right: but what she wants to hear first is that he didn't crawl to that white man, that he stood at that last moment and walked. because if he does not, she knows that she will never get another chance to see a black man standing for her. " - a lesson before dying by earnest j. gaines
This is a novel relating the conflict between the blacks and whites. It is said that history is his story i.e. the story of the one who rules. Centuries ago, myth was created by the whites that their skin is the best skin of this world and they are the best creatures of this earth and they are ruling this world on the basis of the same myth. The blacks are dominated, humiliated and even are not considered to be humans. They are considered to be the slaves of the whites. The black men should have fought for their right; however from the centuries there has been a trend to flee away from the system and to live for their own. So, what they transfer to their coming generation is the same level of dominance by the white people. However, whenever a male child is born he is always hoped to break this vicious circle but he never does so. In this novel, a black man named Jefferson has been given death punishment but he had not done anything except being at the wrong place and at the wrong time. He is not listened to. Then comes his god mother who wants professor Wiggins to make him a man. She doesn’t want him to crawl in front of the whites. She wants him to walk like a man and to die like a man.
The case of Jefferson was different. Being in the prison, he had considered himself as an animal. He didn’t use to respond anyone. He didn’t use to talk to anyone not even to his Grand mom. It was indeed a difficult task for the Professor to make him believe that he is a man.
Professor Wiggins was a frustrated black man. He had even tried to flee away from there but he never could. He had never wanted to take the role but it was his aunt who forced him and it was his girlfriend who encouraged him. The suffocation in him is seen in his words, “I could never be a hero. I teach but I don’t like teaching. I teach because it’s the only thing that an educated black man can do in the south today”.
Now the two men at last form a bond with each other, a bond of friendship and they understand the simple heroism of resisting and defying the expected. Professor Wiggins encouraged him to be a hero that lives for others and to prove that the myth created by the whites were wrong.
“To them you are nothing but just another nigger- no dignity, no heart, no love for your people. You can prove them wrong. You can do more than I can ever do. I have always done what they wanted me to do, teach reading, writing and arithmetic. Nothing else-nothing about dignity, identity, loving and caring. They never though we were capable of learning those things. “
“When I bought you pencil, he grinned at me. Do you know why? He believes it was just a waste of time and money. What an animal can do with a pencil and a paper. “
“We all are scapegoats and they want some more scapegoats because they feel safe with them. As long as none of us stand, they are safe. They are safe with me. They are safe with others, but I do not want them to feel safe with you anymore.”
finally the day arrives, the day of execution. He walked like a man to the chair where he was going to be executed. And he was the strongest man ever ever in this earth and his last wish while he was in the chair was, “ tell, Nannah (my grand mom) that I walked. “
my own view about novel:
I found this novel brilliant. As we move on, we can have the real taste and once we are onto it, we never want to leave the page. The emphasis on the subtle aspects and the encompassment of the psychological behavior of the people has made this novel really wonderful. However, while I was going through it, I could find some sort of analogy in the context of Nepal and there. Even in Nepal, the people are running away from their responsibilities. The people are being scapegoats and so the politicians feel safe with such scapegoats. We are fleeing abroad making the burden for the coming generation heavier because the burden has been piled from long before. We want to escape because we are not a hero to live for others; we want to live for ourselves. There is a need for a Jefferson and who that could me, and that has to be me, you and from among us.