ALesson before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Gainescreates a fictional story that highlights the struggles of theAfrican Americans. The story begins with the conviction of a blackman (Jefferson) who witnesses the death of Mr. Grope, a white man1.The judge sentences Jefferson to death even after an acquittal pleaby his attorney. Jefferson’s aunt and grandmother request a localschool teacher to change him into a man, but they had to receivepermission from the sheriff, Mr. Sam Guidry. Unfortunately, the judgeorders the execution of Jefferson.

Myresponse to the story is that the defense lawyer was a shameful manwho failed to protect his client by investigating the concreteevidence and show his innocence. The attorney overlooked the casebecause of the cultural background of his client. He also disregardedJefferson by calling him a “hog” on several occasions2.He only pointed to his appearance and depicted him as a brainlessperson to the jury. That shows the prejudiced nature of the lawyer aswell.

Iblame the jury and the judge for the death of the innocent AfricanAmerican man. Jefferson was a bystander who could not stop Mr.Grope’s murder. Meanwhile, I view Jefferson as a brave man who didnot run away even after witnessing the crime as most people would do.Those in power failed to protect him because of the color of hisskin. Therefore, identifying him as a savage infringed his rights asa human being.

Additionally,both Jefferson and Grant needed to recognize and accept theirhumanity. Grant lived in a psychological prison since he failed tocreate reasonable resolutions to his girlfriend, Vivian. He alsothinks that his efforts to teach the children living in the quartersare futile. Additionally, his sense of hopelessness intensifies whentalking to white people since the social rule forces him to hide hiseducation. Similarly, Jefferson could have defended himself from hislawyer who identifies him as a “hog.”

TheWord Made Plain: The Power and Promise of Preaching

Inthe book, James Henry Harris argues that preaching reconciles God’sword into a cultural environment especially in the African Americanculture3.The community went to the Word of God for comfort during the days ofoppression by the white people. Harry explains the black preachingusing the history of the black church and the most famous preacherslike Samuel Proctor and Martin Luther King Jr. He also presents theunique features of black preaching, such as the gestures used, rhythmand verbal intonation, as well as the narrative pattern of thesermon.

Myresponse to the paper is that Harris offers a clear understanding ofwhat black church entails. Providing a thorough study of the AfricanAmerican churches and how the sermons took place informs a first-timereader with the intention to learn about the culture. At the sametime, using famous figures like Martin Luther King Jr. cements hisunderstanding of the culture. I believe that the book attracts eventhose outside the African American culture. The last chapter of thebook “Preaching Plainly” presents preachers with specificdirections on how to compose the black sermon4.

Additionally,the book shows that Harris is open to enlighten people about hisculture and how people worship their God. He is not ashamed of theAfrican American culture and even gives instructions to otherpreachers who would want to adopt the model used in the blacksermons. Additionally, he has intersected the broader AfricanAmerican culture and the sacred text.


Thetheory of interpretation by Paul Ricoeur recognizes the relationshipbetween interpreters or ontology and interpretation or epistemology.Ricoeur writes how interpretation advances from naïve comprehension,whereby the interpreter possesses an apparent understanding of theentire text, to understand deeply, wherein the interpretercomprehends the sections of the text about the text based on thoseparts5.He identified the process as the hermeneutic circle. I think that thetheory help researchers develop intersubjective understanding. Ithink that people can validate their guesses in different ways. Ithink that the book challenges our abilities to comprehend what sometexts mean. Readers must guess what a certain text means since theintention of the author surpasses their reach. Additionally, webecome more critical and self-reflective when understanding texts.


Gaines,Ernest. ALesson Before Dying.New York: Vintage, 1994.

Harris,James Henry. WordMade Plain. The Power and Promise of Preaching. Minneapolis:Fortress, 2004.

Ricoeur,Paul. InterpretationTheory.Texas: Texas A&ampM, 1976.

1 Gaines, Ernest. A Lesson Before Dying, (New York: Vintage, 1994), 4.

2 Ibid, 15.

3 Harris, James Henry. Word Made Plain. The Power and Promise of Preaching, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004), 6.

4 Ibid, 150.

5 Ricoeur, Paul. Interpretation Theory. (Texas: Texas A&ampM, 1976), 230.