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Language is a universal way to communicate with one another, and every person has an accent yet people do not speak the same language. Some speak Chinese, Portuguese, or English and so much more. They may speak more then one language like me and be bilingual, trilingual etc. In the “A lesson before dying” by Ernest Gaines the superiority of how someone should speak is often viewed by the language and body language. The two protagonists are Grant and Jefferson, Grant is a young educational African man who is called teacher or Mr. Wiggins. While Jefferson is a plantation man who never left his hometown. However even with their differences they become great and close friends till the very end.
In the 1940s in the United States and especially in south there was segregation and racism. An African-American man speaking grammatically correct English represents power humanity, intelligence which the white men do not like. For equality in education represents one great step for everyone be respected no matter what race you are though, in that time period it was disrespectful. Although , no matter how far Grant has gone in life to educate himself Mr. Henri’s and sheriff will only see the color of his skin by making “…[him] go through that back door…” (Gaines 17).
In which the majority of the white men believed that a black man should speak vernacular English just like Jefferson saying “I yer you” instead of “I hear you” (136).By speaking slang and coming towards the back door it brings down Grants self esteem and value in his community. For in the kitchen he is no longer known as “teacher” but as the kitchen boy, also “Henri Pichot, who cared nothing in the world for [him], tolerated [him only] because of [his] aunt” (17).
The unspoken dialogue had been represented various times. Grant standing up and not receiving coffee that Inez offers him; makes Grant believe that he was not bending his pride to Henri Pichot’s needs for Grant wanted change (45-46). The most discourteous thing a man could do is make someone wait for an hour when they fully knew that there is a person who was going to come at that time, then expect them to think nothing of it and just move on, in which that is exactly what Henri Pichot did with Sam Grady . Since at that time period African men where supposed to be respectful even when the Caucasian men where vulgar not like:
“’ Been waiting long’ Sam Grady had asked [then Grant said] ‘about two and a half hours, sir’. [He is] supposed to say ‘Not long’ and then [he is] supposed to grin; [he] did not do either”. (Gaines 47)
In which Grant did not back down like a weak jellyfish but a strong brave man with a backbone. Then there was a time when Paul had to inspect Mr. Grant Wiggins before he could enter the jail to talk to Jefferson. By this Paul did not look at Grant for he felt uncomfortable invading Grant’s privacy (168).
Jefferson is a man who knows he is viewed as an unimportant man though still with little education he was fine with it. Then by accepting who he is some may say he was a passive person. While others contradict and say Jefferson is true to himself, which is courageous since the majority of us will not or cannot. Later in the story he went to the chair like a strong man for Paul had said that:
“He [is] the strongest man there, we all stood jammed together… We had each other to lean on. [Then] Vincent asked [Jefferson] if he had any last words, he looked at the preacher and said ‘tell Nannan I walked’. And straight he walked …Straight he walked”. (Gaines 254)
Rev. Ambrose is a man who knows who he is and close to his faith in which, Grant barley knows who he actually is and Mr. Pichot dose not know how to give in return without being forced to. As a result Rev. Ambrose is superior to Mr. Pichot and Grant:
“’ [he’s] the one that’s educated. [he] knows people like [them] look down on people like [him] but’…’ [he’s] the one that is educated’”. (Gaines 215)
Further more for Reverend there are no language barriers for him for he knows and understands sides of history, his neighbors and his people.
My family speaks many languages yet we care and love each other. I live in a country where it is a melting pot and everybody is busy. Yet if we take a little bit of time and listen to one another the world and life would be so much easier. One simple yet strong act none the less can bring people closer and remove the façade of who is better then that person. The reason is because we think we know better then someone else, from a teenager to parent and friends to politics. Everyone has a voice whether you can’t understand it or hear it. “A lesson before dying” does not only talk about discrimination but also the lack of communication with each character. By just knowing a person’s point of view it may change you like it had changed Grant; the very first time he was in the jail cell with Jefferson. Language is universal and so is change, not only must you speak up but listen to others as well.