A Lesson before Dying vs If Beale Street Could Talk: Compare & Contrast
Grant’s major conflict arises from his fear of failure. At first, Grant is reluctant to help Jefferson. He sees Jefferson state as being hopeless since he is in a poor mental state and emotionally and feel that his efforts to lift his spirits would be futile. Because of this fear of failure, Grant had cut himself from society. He stays away from the oppressive and unjust people around him. As a matter of fact, he hates his own people because of the suffering that they go through every day. The plight of his own people depresses him and he tries to detach himself from them. In the case of Jefferson, the conflict he faces is that he knows for sure that Jefferson would die at the hands of a white judge and white jury. However, as much as he sees that the situation is hopeless, he also knows that it is his responsibility to speak against such injustices. If he fails to challenge the situation and Jefferson ends up dead, then he would hold responsible for his death (Gaines, 34). He sees that Jefferson is powerless in the racist system
The reason why Grant is slow to help Jefferson is that he is not willing to address his own fears and insecurities. In the Beginning, He tells Tante Lau that it was impossible to help Jefferson implying that the situation was completely hopeless. Grant visits Jefferson who after sensing his reluctance to help him reacts aggressively (Gaines, 40). At this point, Grant tells his aunt that despite the fact that Jefferson was trying to make him feel guilty, he would still not help him.
Eventually, Grant has a change of heart and decides to help Jefferson. This is because he now sees Jefferson in a new light. He now sees him as being more than just an oppressed black man and a convict. He now sees Jefferson as the agent to change in society. He sees this case as a catalyst to a series of changes that will see to the end of oppression and a system based on racism. He now believes that the cause of defending Jefferson is worth it and he finally manages to give Jefferson hope of prevailing in the present condition that was previously seen as being grim. He encourages Jefferson by telling him to believe in himself and to see himself as the most significant person in that town. As a black man, Jefferson had come to accept his lowly position and accept his terrible fate. Grant tries to change this mentality by telling Jefferson to see himself as being important. He tells him that he is the only person who has the power to define his position in society despite being in a society where blacks were despised and seen as inferior. The reason why the black people were oppressed was that they had come to accept their position (Gaines, 67). Rediscovering self-worth was one step towards redemption. Nevertheless, for Grant to help Jefferson to break from his current predicaments, he had to go through a transformation. Previously he was blinded by his own insecurities. He had to overcome these insecurities and fears and believe that he could help his people to overcome oppression. Instead of separating himself from his people, he had to feel the oppression as if it directly affected him and identify himself with his people. Among the characters that helped Grant realize this change include Reverend Ambrose, Vivian, and his interaction with himself as evident from his monologue. It is at the point where Grant realizes his problem and expresses his need for a savior that he is able to save Jefferson.
The theme of family is explored in Both “A lesson from dying” and “If Beale Street Could Talk”. Tish and Fonny are in life and come from dysfunctional families. They hope that they would make a better home than those of their respective family. In A lesson from dying, Vivian’s first marriage did not work out and she is left as a single mum. His relationship with Grant is also dysfunctional since the grant disrespects her and only contacts her when he needs comforting. Tish and Fonny find themselves in conflicts with the parents when Tish parents accuse Fonny of rape leading to his imprisonment (Baldwin, 45). Both stories thus explore the themes of family and conflict.
The lessons about manhood that Graine tries to point out is that men are not supposed to be submissive and are supposed to brave confronting every situation that may face them without fear. Graine shows that being a man lays in the ability to self-sacrifice for the good of others since it makes life better for everyone. Manhood is also defined as a part of sexual prowess. A real man should be good in bed. This explains why Grant is embarrassed after he fails to satisfy Vivian after having sessions with Jefferson.
Gaines, Ernest J. A Lesson Before Dying. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. Internet resource.
Baldwin, James. If Beale Street Could Talk: A Novel. , 2006. Internet resource.