Compare and Contrast To Kill A Mocking Bird and A Lesson Before Dying

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In our world racism and injustice is everywhere, most people try to avoid it and others see no other way but to face it. In “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, the author explained how we are surrounded by racism and injustice. Harper Lee also shows relationships struggles between family members, and friendships. In “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest Gaines, he brings the same similarities and a rich sense of place. In the novel he tried to show compassion for the people and their struggles. He tried to show that everyone in the world is important and is telling us that anyone can change. Both books are about racism and injustice in the south and how it can affect the people it concerns. “In A Lesson Before Dying” it starts out with Jefferson being sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. He was at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and because he was black the jury accused him of the crime. Grant Wiggins (a teacher who works at the community church) is told to go up to the jail and convince Jefferson that he is a man not a hog. At first he does not know how to transform Jefferson into a man, but through visiting Jefferson, talking to Vivian, and witnessing things throughout the community, he is able to reach out to Jefferson and convince him that he is a man. Finally at the end of the story there is a sense of victory because Jefferson dies feeling like a man. Throughout the book Grant always doubted and never believed in himself because everyone was putting pressure on him. For Jefferson he never felt that he was a man because he was never treated like one and never had hope for himself. In “To Kill A Mockingbird” the story is narrated by a young girl who goes by the name of Scout Finch. Scout’s real name is Jean-Louise Finch. Scout lives in the small Alabama town of Maycomb in the 1930’s with her brother, Jem and her widowed father, Atticus. The story takes place during the depression, but the Finch family is better off than many in the small town, as Atticus is a successful and respected lawyer.
Both books show us that, even in the face of hopelessness there is indeed hope, and that characters who struggle can move forward. There is nothing that can change what the outcome will be in the end. However, in light of this, a person is left with two options. Either they could deny it and fight it the entire way or accept it, learn from it, and move forward. Jefferson in “A Lesson Before Dying” and Tom Robinson in “To Kill A Mockingbird” are very similar characters because they both have the same two options in life. Some similarities that both characters have are that they are both black and get accused of something they never have done. They both die in the end and accept their death and they both had very good evidence that they did not do it but were still guilty. A trait that Jefferson demonstrates when put into prison is the fact that he still enjoyed the outside comforts of things, such as a radio and a diary. The fact that Jefferson wants these things shows us that his imprisonment does not defeat him. In his diary, Jefferson says, “Shef guiry ax me what I want for my super an I tol him I want nanan to cook me som okra an rice ansom pok chop an a conbred an som claba.”(Gaines232) This shows that Jefferson still enjoys his aunt’s cooking, and outside pleasure from prison. The fact that he can still take pleasure from these small outside things clearly demonstrate that Jefferson still enjoys a small victory over the world. Tom Robinson on the other hand has a very gentle and kind personality. He was very honest about everything he said in the court room. Tom is considered a mockingbird because he never hurt anyone, never did anything wrong or caused trouble. All he ever did was attempt to help Miss Ewell, to have pity on her. By sentencing Tom to death, the jury technically “killed a mockingbird.” The mockingbirds are known for doing nothing but good. They are innocent and all they do is make beautiful music for us to enjoy. Tom Robinson was accused of rape. He did not rape Mayella, and only was trying to help but he ends up dying all because of racism.
Both books have much similarities. Atticus Finch from “To Kill A Mockingbird” and Grant Wiggins from “A Lesson Before Dying” are both teachers. Atticus is a teacher to his children by teaching them to treat everyone equally with respect and is a admirable figure. This is shown when Atticus says to Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”(Lee30) What he means is do not judge people until you were in situations like them. Atticus is very open-minded and wants his children to take his advice and accept other people’s views. Racism is a big part in this book. Atticus accepts Calpurnia as part of the family. He teaches his children not to discriminate blacks, and that all people are equal. Atticus’s sister Alexandra does not have the same opinion, she likes to judge everyone. “The thing is, you could scrub Walter Cunningham till he shines. You can put him in shoes and a new suit, but he’ll never be like Jem. Besides there’s a drinking streak in that family a mile wide. Finch women aren’t interested in that sort of people.”(Lee224) In “A Lesson Before Dying” Grant Wiggins, a teacher at the community school in his town plays an important role in Jefferson’s development. He struggles to help Jefferson understand that these attitudes are preventing him from achieving something remarkable. Grant teaches him the meaning of obligation, trying to convince Jefferson to eat some of his aunt’s food and make her happy. Teaching Jefferson about heroism, hoping Jefferson will realize the effect that standing up and walking to the chair like a man will have on people in the community.
Calpurnia in “To Kill A Mockingbird” and Vivian in “A Lesson Before Dying” are very inspiring characters because they are both teachers in a different way. Calpurnia is a teacher by teaching the kids lessons about life and race. Vivian teaches children about education. Calpurnia(who is the Finch’s black cook)serves as a bridge for Jem and Scout between the white and black communities. Calpurnia explains the difficult parts of life and the problems in the racist county of Maycomb, Alabama. She puts real-life situations that the kids experience into easier context for them to understand. Calpurnia is wise when it comes to how you should treat people. Atticus trusts and supports Calpurnia because he considers her as a very important member of the family. “Alexandra, Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn’t have gone along without her all these years. She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things the way they are.”(Lee137)Vivian on the other hand is not just teaching the school children but also teaching Grant Wiggins(her boyfriend)and supporting him. Vivian keeps reminding him that he needs to help Jefferson. When Grant insists of running away from all of his responsibilities because he was being overwhelmed, Vivian reminds him that he loves the people in the community more than he hates the problems.
“A Lesson Before Dying” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” have very similar traits and characteristics. In “A Lesson Before Dying” Jefferson and Grant learn many things from one another to help them both become better people. They learn to accept themselves and to realize that they are important not only to themselves but those in their community. They learn through friendship that they have much to offer. Their friendship helps them to see that even though their lives are troubled, they will not be beaten down. They are inspired by each other’s friendship and this helps them to pull through to the end. Jefferson realizes that he cannot change what has happened but must maintain in his pride. This pride helps Jefferson to walk to his death like a man, not a hog. In the end, Jefferson’s life is transformed because of the lessons that he learned before dying.

Works Cited
1. Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. New York: First Warner Books Printing, 1960. Print.
2. Gaines, Ernest. A Lesson Before Dying. New York: Vintage Books, 1933. Print.

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