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A Novel by Ernest J. Gaines

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1 A Novel by Ernest J. Gaines
A Lesson Before Dying A Novel by Ernest J. Gaines Prepared for Troy University Reading Initiative discussion Rebecca Money, Student Support Services

2 Objective To encourage participants to think critically about literature. To provide a clear analysis of the assigned reading. To help diversify participants’ reading interest and enhance their reading foundation.

3 About the Author, Ernest Gaines
Born 1933

4 About the Author, Ernest Gaines
Birthplace: a plantation in Oscar (Pointe Coupe Parrish), Louisiana, in He continues to reside there. Childhood: Spent on the River Lake Plantation in Louisiana. Family: Five generations of his family lived at River Lake Plantation. Teen years: Relocated to California when he was fifteen years old to continue his education and live with his parents who had gone their to find employment. 2

5 About the Author, Ernest Gaines (cont.)
Early Education: The Black Quarter school in Pointe Coupee’ Parish, Louisiana. College education: San Francisco State College and Stanford University (writing fellowship). 2 Earliest Publications: Catherine Carmier (1964); Of Love and Dust (1967); and Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971). 2 Most Celebrated Publications: -- Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971): Brought Gaines to the literary forefront and won the Commonwealth of California gold medal for fiction and was made into a TV movie. 2 -- A Gathering of Old Men (1983): Won the Common Wealth of California gold medal for fiction.2

6 A Lesson Before Dying (1993)
Winner, 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award

7 About A Lesson Before Dying (1993)
Ernest J. Gaines, in his own words: “We all know--at least intellectually--that we're going [to die]. The difference is being told, 'Okay, it's tomorrow at 10 a.m.' How do you react to that? How do you face it? That, it seems to me, is the ultimate test of life.”1 “Though the places in my stories and novels are imaginary ones, they are based pretty much on the place where I grew up and the surrounding areas where I worked, went to school, and traveled as a child. My characters speak the way people speak in that area." 1 Biography and Author Quote Sources 1. About the Author. Retrieved 5 Aug.2008 <http://www.randomhouse. com/vintage/gaines/bio.html 2. African American Literature. Orlando, FL: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1992. 3. African American Literature Book Club. 5 Aug <>.

8 Historical Framework for reading A Lesson Before Dying
A Lesson Before Dying was published in However, the plot (sequence of events) is set in the 1940s, at a fictional Plantation Parrish located in the Deep South, and specifically, in the state of Louisiana. This novel attempts to depict the authentic character and spirit of the era in which the plot is set. It infuses vernacular and some local color elements to help create an authentic reading experience.

9 Historical Framework for reading A Lesson Before Dying (cont)
The events of this novel occur during times of racial segregation or what is referred to as the “Jim Crow” era. The plot of this story also occurs after the period referred to as “The Harlem Renaissance.” As an aside: The Harlem Renaissance, was also known as the “New Negro Renaissance” and the “New Negro Movement.” “Renaissance” means “birth.” The Harlem Renaissance peaked between 1920 and the early 1930s. As black literacy improved, artistic expression became a means for black intellectuals to rebel against poverty, racism, and stereotypes of black culture and encourage black communities to examine shared values and commit to achieving shared goals. The 1940s then was an era in which black intellectuals began to boldly criticized the disparities between blacks and whites. In the novel, the black college-educated characters who are themselves teachers grapple with these disparities personally and professionally.

10 Historical Framework for reading A Lesson Before Dying (cont)
Some themes addressed in the novel include: -- Religion -- Vernacular (everyday language of a people) - -- Alcoholism -- Marital Discord (Adultery, Divorce) -- Parenting -- Misogyny (Disrespect toward women of all colors) -- Employment Limitations for Black Americans, for the educated, undereducated, and uneducated -- Classism, Economics and Poverty -- Education (Literacy and Illiteracy) -- Capital Punishment / Criminal Justice -- Racism / Intra-cultural Racism -- Human Respect / Equality -- Liberation (Escape) vs. Captivity

11 Discussion of the Book Ask Yourself . . .
Who Learns a Lesson? Identify the student(s) or audience. What Lesson is taught? Identify the theme(s). At what point in the Story does Jefferson or you as a reader/student learn the Lesson? Do you have an epiphany? OR What is the Lesson that not only the condemned man, Jefferson, learns before dying, but the lesson that all readers should glean from this story?

12 THE END Reading Initiative Coordinator: Mrs. Eleanor Lee, Dean of First Year Studies Trio Director: Mrs. Mary Griffin Student Support Services Director: Ms. Buffie Alloway Presentation PPT prepared by Rebecca C. Money, English/Reading Specialist Troy University Student Support Services Center for Student Success 109 Shackelford Hall Annex Troy, AL 36082

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