Get help from the best in academic writing.

Injustice and the Importance of Being a Man in A Lesson Before Dying

Injustice and the Importance of Being a Man in A Lesson Before Dying

Justitia, the goddess of justice, is portrayed with a blindfold holding scales and a sword, but she, in applying her scales and sword, has never been colorblind in the U. S. 1[1]

Ernest J. Gaines accuses the legal injustice against the black population through an innocent convict, Jefferson’s death in A Lesson Before Dying. However, Gaines penetrates the fact that the legal injustice is rather a result than a cause. Behind the unfair legal system, a huge matrix of the cultural injustice, which always already presumes the colored people as criminals, does exist. Gaines, thus, puts more stress on Jefferson’s transformation from a “hog” to a man. Unbinding himself from the humiliating self-notion, a cultural construction in a white ruling society, and establishing his own humanity, Jefferson exemplifies the potentiality of black empowerment against the prevalent racial injustices.2[2] Gaines’s insight and craftsmanship, which channel the legal injustice into the cultural frame, make the novel an outstanding masterpiece of the century.

First, Jefferson’s case provides a great example of the injustice in the American legal system in the antebellum society. Since “white” America did not count the black population as her citizens, the law was totally on the dominant white people’s side.3[3] Jefferson’s trial is just an official gesture or ritual. No matter what happens during the trial, Jefferson is doomed to death. The legal system operates just as a means of vengeance. If a white man is killed, a black man has to die for him. One of the most striking things about Jefferson’s trial is the fact that, even before the conviction, every…

… middle of paper …

…n justice. Grant’s criticism against the decision making process of the date illuminates the hypocrisy of America as a Christian country. Nevertheless, Jefferson is described as a Christ-like figure. On Gaines’s skepticism about Christianity, see Critical Reflections on the Fiction of Ernest J. Gaines, David C. Estes ed. (Athens, GA: University of Georgia P, 1994), 77-84 and 257-59.

6[6] Herman Beavers, Wrestling Angels into Song: The Fictions of Ernest J. Gaines and James Alan McPherson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania P, 1995), 174.

7[7] On the relation between the “white” law and cultural discourse that justifies the racism within legal system, Grant says, “They play by the rules their forefathers created hundreds of years ago. Their forefathers said that we’re only three-fifths human – and they believe it to this day” (192).

The Importance of the Sonnet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Although Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy of two young lovers caught in the whirlpool of their own youthful passion, it is also a tragedy of two young people at the mercy of a feud not of their making and of fateful events over which they have no control. Regardless of our individual response to this play, we have a common response of deep sadness over the senseless deaths of the two young lovers. Regardless of the cause of the tragic events, we are on their side.

There are several ways to think about Romeo and Juliet, but recent discussions of the play look at the form and language of love that Shakespeare uses and how his use of one particular form, the sonnet, enhances our sense of the play. By directing our attention to the sonnet qualities in Romeo and Juliet, we are able to discern a growing maturity in these two characters, one which, especially in the case of Juliet, belies their untried youth. This article will examine how the sonnet conventions found in Romeo and Juliet reflect the play’s stance on young love as well as how Juliet’s resistance to the sonnet reveals a character that allows her to endure the desertion of virtually everyone around her.

The sonnet is a fourteen-line love poem. Perfected by the Italian Petrarch in the fifteenth century, the form followed certain conventions. The subject matter was that of unrequited love. The sonneteer would write a cycle of sonnets dedicated to a woman, his “sonnet lady,” whom he knew only from afar, who was unavailable, whose very presence changed one’s earthly existence into heaven. The fourteen-line sequence was often marked by a reversal, a “turn” between the first eight and the last six lines. Frequently, the turn would move from the ph…

… middle of paper …

…m to abandon Juliet in the tomb of her dead ancestors with the body of Romeo. Throughout the chaos that occurs when the tragedy in the tomb is discovered by the outside world, Juliet remains firm and resolute, a stark contrast to the confusion that even spills into the streets of Verona: “For I will not away” (5.3.160). Preferring death to the hostile world around her, she stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger.

Although we see the chastened adults receive their greatest punishment, the deaths of their children, it seems far too great a price to pay for the settling of a feud. Our hearts remain with Romeo and Juliet, who found passion in love rather than in hatred and who matured far beyond their adult role models.

“This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong

To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.”

— Sonnet 73

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.