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“Lesson before Dying is a novel by Ernest Gaines J., whose story revolves around young uneducated man, Jefferson. The author has some how deliberately decided to crowd the novel with women characters because of the critical roles that these women play at various avenues. It is thus justifiable to cite that women in “Lesson before Dying” have special roles which are not only pegged on helping in domestic chores, taking care of family, and serving as wives, aunts and guardians, but also places them as the pillar of the family and the society at large.
Gaines describes Miss Emma at the moment when she was working at Pichot’s family as a cook and a housekeeper and her service is described as “symbolic of what the blacks have given to the South”. This implies that Miss Emma was a woman of integrity who together with Tante enable him to come out of his despair, bitterness, feelings of worthless. Despite having been forced to get to Jefferson’s house through the back door, Tante and Emma serve as the force that enabled Grant to change his perception about life. Notwithstanding, through the novel, women are displayed as being honest, diligent and religious through their determination to influence the community and various issues within the community as a whole. For instance, these women engage the society in cultivating respect to people of all calibers. This is a clear indication of how much the women are dedicated to their own families and the community as well. Miss Emma and Tante Lou are true friends who support and stand with one another both in good and bad times regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
Women in the “A Lesson before Dying” are also responsible for instilling justice within the community. This mandate is reflected through Miss Emma who not only cultivates justice in the society, but also takes part in a spearheading protest, as long as she believes it is the only means by which she can promote equality within the community. In addition, Miss Emma’s boldness generated the development of processes which eventually led to the salvation of Jefferson. Owing to her persistent pressure on Grant and Tante Lou to visit and encourage Jefferson in jail he was released. On the other hand, Tante Lou took her teaching position to foster ethical and morally acceptable behaviors. Through protest, equality advocating and teaching on morally acceptable behaviors, women in “A Lesson before Learning” got an opportunity to influence change within the society. These women believed that change could only be realized within the community if everyone took a personal initiative to change himself/herself. This was a component of role modeling whereby these women first changed themselves before engaging in other pursuit. From the novel, Grant says “After listening to one or two of the verses, I turned out the rest of them, I had heard them all many times” (33). This assertion was attributed to the thought that what the women were engaged in was simply
Besides being advocates, women in “A Lesson before Dying” serve as role models by respecting rights and enforcing justice. This offers an avenue where the society is assured of effective propagation of moral standards without infringement or intimidation. According to such role modeling women in “A Lesson before Dying” and other members of the society are able to grow up as leaders with integrity.
On the other hand, women in “A Lesson before Dying” serve as a bridging gap between the tradition and the modern world. This role is seen when these women try to propagate both equality between genders and progression of the traditional cultural belief. For instance, Vivian Baptist is practically determined never to leave her culture behind and respect her customs. This is in spite of the fact that people who surround her are white. In fact, she communicates with the blacks instead of the whites. Similarly, Vivian’s role as a bridge between the tradition and modernity is depicted through her brave actions where she chose to marry a black man against her family’s wish thereby making herself excluded from the family. However, this does not kill her dreams, but has given her strength to overcome more challenges and to go on with her life instead if being disappointed. Together with Vivian’s love and support for Grant these women act as a source of inspiration and encouragement especially during the time of disappointments. For instance, Vivian goes on to encourage Grant’s students on how to build a bright life ahead for greater future in the community and the outside world.
As a bridge between tradition and modernity, women such as Vivian offer a true picture of how possible it is for an individual and a woman in particular, to become responsible in the family according to the tradition and also be involved in community affairs. To approve this, Vivian does her duties as a mother to her children without neglecting them and effectively performs her duty as a teacher. Besides this, she is able to balance family, work, and spare time to her lover, Grant.
In conclusion, women in “A Lesson before Dying” played very critical roles in the community and in their personal lives thereby changing people’s perception of women and gender roles. In a community that is characterized by injustice and racism such roles were particularly important if by any chance gender equality and justice were to be realized Such traits as boldness, courage, inspiration, and strength that became relevant for harmonious life in the community described in “A Lesson before Dying” were actually possessed by various women but not men in the novel.