Not Your Everyday Hero
Firefighters save lives, so they must be heros. Hercules has strength and courage, so he must be a hero. Superman saved a whole city, so he has got to be a hero. What about the everyday hero? The hero that doesn’t expect a reward for their good deed. The hero that does something because it’s just the right thing to do. Who determines who a hero is? Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Tall or short, skinny or fat, and even black or white. In the novel A Lesson Before Dying, the hero of the story cannot fly, he does not have the most strength or courage and he hasn’t saved any lives, much less a whole city. The hero in this story is a black man - charged for murder.
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He does something that other men don’t and can’t do. He is different from other men. He is above other men. No matter who those other men are, the hero, no matter who he is, is above them…. A hero does for others. He would do anything for the people he loves because he knows it would make their lives better.” (Gaines 191)
After Jefferson listened to what Grant had to say something must have clicked in Jefferson’s mind. Jefferson knew he had to walk to the chair as a man, as the only wish from his elderly godmother. He knew he had to do this one last thing for her before he was executed. From this specific visit and on, Jefferson showed that a change had taken place. During the following visit Miss Emma, Reverend Ambrose, Tante Lou and Grant, asked Jefferson to come to the dayroom to eat gumbo and talk. “All though [sic] Jefferson’s ‘If that’s what they want’ response doesn’t sound the most enthusiastic he still is willing to go to the dayroom for the meeting” (Bokma 2). Not only did Jefferson cooperate and go to the dayroom, he also ate her gumbo because he knew it would please Miss Emma. He didn’t jump to the bandwagon and cooperate, he did it after all the long talks with Grant.When Miss Emma had visited him in the past, she had always brought a basket of food, but Jefferson never ate. According to Kyle Bokma, Jefferson eating Miss Emma’s gumbo “is actually quite pivotal” (2). When Miss Emma tried to talk to him, Jefferson wouldn’t say a word. After this one memorable visit by Grant, Jefferson was now eating Miss Emma’s food and speaking more and more. Ever since the day of the trial Jefferson knew he was going to die, but he now wanted to die like a man and not a hog.
Jefferson wasn’t just showing heroic qualities because he was speaking more, or eating Miss Emma’s food. Jefferson was giving something to every black man or woman, adult or child that lived in Bayonne and in the quarter. Jefferson was going to prove all the whites wrong. Grant, determined to make Jefferson a man, said, “The white people out there are saying that you don’t have it - that you’re a hog, not a man” (Gaines 191). During this specific time period whites still believed they were on a higher level than blacks even though blacks could not be considered slaves anymore. Grant stated, “The last thing they [whites] want is to see a black man stand… [as a man and not a hog]” (Gaines 192). For Jefferson to walk to the chair as a man, is a slap in the face for everyone who ever doubted him. Not only is it a slap in the face for whoever doubted him, but Jefferson going against the common stereotype of a black man in the 1940s. Jefferson is breaking the stereotype that says, no black men are good for nothing and can’t stand up for themselves. This stereotype is for all black men around the world, not just in Bayonne.
Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis were always the talk of the town in Bayonne. A boxer and baseball playing having more than one thing in common, and that was that...