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Qualities of Men in A Lesson Before Dying

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    The qualities of men are unlimited therefore; they should be developed and appreciated. Three of the most important qualities are maturity, self-worth, and commitment. In Ernest J. Gaines’s novel, A Lesson before Dying, he illustrates the three main qualities through two African-American men, Jefferson and Grant. Jefferson is a man who is struggling to mature in a harsh world filled with racism and injustice, while trying to prove that he is a dignified young man. Grant, on the other hand, develops commitment.

    Throughout this novel, Gaines projects the qualities men should develop: maturity, self-worth and commitment in order to become a dignified man. There is a point in life where people make difficult choices that lead to certain consequences. That’s where maturity comes in; when someone is mature they think about the decisions they make, and how they can affect one’s loved ones. Jefferson frustrates those who are willing to help him by avoiding them, ignoring them and pushing them away by saying, “nothing don’t matter no more” (Gaines, 73).

    It shows that Jefferson is putting up a wall between himself and the world, not knowing how to handle the pain and frustration within him. Grant tries his best to help him mature and realize the pain he has been causing to his loved ones by avoiding their help. Jefferson realizes that he is sorry for the way he talked to Grant’s girlfriend when he got upset. He realizes how beautiful and great she is (Gaines, 232). Jefferson is now a mature young man, setting out to find his self-worth in such a harsh world, closer to becoming dignified. Jefferson is searching within himself to find answers.

    He doesn’t understand the true value of his life. Jefferson views love “…for youmans” (Gaines, 139). He doesn’t consider himself a human; he doesn’t realize the potential he holds. He thinks that he is incapable of everything, even of loving. He doesn’t seem to know that he can achieve great things and become better than others if he pursues his goals. As Grant helps Jefferson hold himself together, he slowly starts to realize that he can be someone important; he can make a difference and become a dignified man as his loved ones want him to be.

    Finally, Jefferson has become the honorable man he longed to be; he expresses his gratitude toward Grant for being good to him and making him realize his worth (Gaines, 232). Jefferson has finally developed the qualities in order to become a dignified young man, while Grant still struggles to seek commitment. When Grant is given the task to help Jefferson become a respected young man, he is bothered by the idea. He feels suffocated with Jefferson’s execution and bad attitude.

    Grant expresses how he wants nothing to do with Jefferson or his execution (Gaines, 20-21), and he sees it as an obligation. As days pass, Grant notices how much Jefferson needs him and begins to change. He no longer wants to run away. He wants to stay and help Jefferson walk to the chair as a man and not a hog. Grant encourages Jefferson to become the hero he couldn’t be, to help those around one and make their lives easier (Gaines, 191). Grant has finally met commitment. Throughout this novel, Gaines has shown us the importance and impact that certain qualities bring.

    In this case, the qualities Gaines illustrates are: maturity, self-worth and commitment to become a respectable and honorable young man. Maturity is when one is able to make decisions that will have a great impact not only on themselves but also their loved ones. Self-worth helps everyone discover the potential one has in order to make a name for themselves. Commitment helps people learn new things about themselves, things that one would have never seen before. A man with these qualities will be considered respectable and honorable, but most of all dignified.

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